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A new generation takes charge in RSS

Dattatreya Hosabale’s election as Sarkaryavah and the appointment of two new Sah-sarkaryavahs reflects the organisation’s ability to change with the times.

Speaking about the flexible nature of the Sangh in a lecture series at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat had said: “We are not required to take permission from anyone to make timely changes in the Sangh. We have this from the Sangh founder Dr Hedgewar, who mandated such changes.”

After the elections in the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the largest decision-making body of the RSS, the changes at the organisational level within the Sangh have drawn wide public attention. Dattatreya Hosabale, a relatively young functionary, has been elected the sarkaryavah of the Sangh. Somewhat like a corporate Chief Executive Officer, the Sarkaryavah is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organisation. The sarsanghchalak has the role of a friend, mentor and guide. Balasaheb Deoras, the third sarsanghchalak of the RSS, is credited with introducing this method of collective decision-making to the organisation. Up to the time of the second sarsanghchalak, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the word of the sarsanghchalak was unquestioningly followed down the line.

A sarkaryavah is elected every third year by consensus. Ever since the Sangh presented its written constitution to the government, barring the Emergency in 1975, elections have been conducted with clockwork regularity. With each election come significant changes in accordance with the needs of the times. Apart from the basic purpose of the Sangh and its guru, the saffron flag, everything is open to change. Since it is the idea, not the person, that has primacy, the saffron flag holds the status of a guru in the Sangh.

In this light, the recent change can be seen as a generational change. Suresh “Bhayyaji” Joshi became sarkaryavah at the age of 62 and Suresh Soni, who was the same age, became sah-sarkaryavah. The current election has witnessed a new generation of Sangh activists taking charge. The new sarkaryavah, Dattatreya Hosabale, has had a long innings in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad since 1972. Born in Shimoga district of Karnataka, Hosabale has held various responsibilities in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad till 2003. He established the World Organisation for Students and Youth, a strong cultural organisation of students of foreign origin residing in India. With a postgraduate degree in English, he is popular with people across a wide spectrum of political ideologies.

Hosabale’s team also has two new sah-sarkaryavahs — Arun Kumar and Ram Dutt. Arun Kumar has spent a long time in Jammu and Kashmir as state organising secretary and is an expert on Jammu and Kashmir and internal security. He has been instrumental in the establishment of the think-tank, Jammu Kashmir Study Centre. Ram Dutt, a postgraduate in mathematics and a gold medalist, was a pracharak (organising secretary) for central India and then Bihar. A new face in the team is prachar pramukh (chief of media relations), Sunil Ambekar, who has been in the Vidyarthi Parishad with Hosabale for many years. He has been in the news recently due to his book, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: Roadmap for 21st century.

Ramlal, who returned to the parent organisation from the BJP, is also known as a skilled organiser. He has been given the responsibility of the chief of public outreach (sampark pramukh).

Hosabale’s tenure as sarkaryavah of the Sangh has begun at a crucial time: The next three years would witness many important developments, such as the preparation for general elections and the 75th anniversary of the Independence of the country. It will be interesting to see how the Sangh and its sister organisations provide momentum to their continuing work of the organisation of the society through these opportunities.

This column first appeared in the print edition on April 3, 2021 under the title ‘In RSS, a generational change’. The writer is member of the RSS executive in the Delhi Prant.

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