Mohan Bhagwat may not have been completely off the mark when he made his controversial conversion remark on  Mother Teresa but in one giant stroke the RSS chief has washed away all the hard statesmanship or PR efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win over the goodwill of the Christian community in particular, and other minority communities in general.

The Modi government, which is already facing the wrath of the Opposition and other pressure groups on amendments in the Land Acquisition Act, surely didn’t want another problem on its head and it certainly didn’t expect one from Bhagwat. While neither the party or the government knows how to deal with the  issue, the two could certainly not be seen contradicting him, directly or indirectly.

The key question being debated, albeit privately in the corridors of power is whether Bhagwat’s remarks were with a clear intent to keep Modi and the BJP under his tight leash or it was an inadvertent remark, blown out of proportion by the media and his critics?

RSS said Mother Teresa helped the poor for converting them to Christianity. ReutersRSS said Mother Teresa helped the poor for converting them to Christianity. Reuters

RSS said Mother Teresa helped the poor for converting them to Christianity. Reuters

There is an alternate theory veing advocated by some Sangh sympathisers.  “The process of de-iconization of certain individuals is a necessary ingredient for spread of Hindu nationalism.” Whatever might be the case it does not augur well for Modi. More so when he was consciously working on confidence building measures with minority communities. Modi, after all, had realised what was considered a distant dream of the saffron brigade, an absolute majority of its own and now had come true to his pre-poll catch phrase, `Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, a party leader said.

When Modi made his ‘inclusive’ speech during  the `National Celebration of the Elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia’ at Vigyan Bhawan in the national Capital , he was attempting to alter the image that his government was favourably tilted towards hardliners.

“We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief, is a personal choice of a citizen. My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence… With this commitment, I appeal to all religious groups to act with restraint, mutual respect, and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation which is manifest in our Constitution and is in line with the Hague Declaration”, Modi had said in that function.

Few days prior to that he had taken note of the alleged attack on a convent school and had summoned the Delhi Police Commissioner to give a clear directive. That was one of the rare occasions when the Prime Minister spoke directly to a police chief over an issue under investigation.

Modi has also taken a personal interest in securing the release of an abducted Christian priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar to India from the custody of Taliban in Afghanistan. As Firstpost reported earlier, Modi ensured that Father Alexis  returned to India with dignity. There was a general expectation within party members that Modi’s efforts would go a long way in earning brownie points with the christian community and give a rather happy start to the Budget session of Parliament. Father Alexis who belonged to Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) a worldwide NGO sponsored by the Vatican, had been seen all over television and newspapers praising Modi for whatever he did for him and his family.

So has  Mohan Bhagwat responded in his own ways to what Modi had been doing in the past few weeks? After all Bhagwat is well aware of Srimad Bhagwat Gita’s Sanskrit sloka: `Satyam bruyat priyam bruyat, Na bruyat satyam apriyam; Priyam cha nanritam bruyat, Eshah Dharmah sanatanah’ (speak what is true, speak what is pleasant, speak not what is true but unpleasant nor what is pleasant but not true). What Bhagwat spoke was not unpleasant but was taken to be in bad taste by his critics and Christian clerics. It does not affect his standing but dents Modi’s image. The BJP has to do a fire fight now on behalf of the RSS.

But a source who has seen the RSS-BJP relationship from close quarters cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

“The senior RSS leaders are always almost completely surrounded by their people and are so used to speaking at their close door gatherings that they often tend to forget that there is a world outside of it. More so they don’t realise that with BJP coming to power at the centre, they are playing a far bigger role and every word that they say and their every act have great deal of meaning. In an 24X& television and digital media age few sentences said in Bharatpur have an instant national impact. It’s time that they understand and internalise the new responsibilities that have come to them since May 2014.They are no longer playing street cricket. They have entered the arena of world cup cricket where any wrong move would not be taken kindly,” he said.

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Bhagwat’s Mother Teresa remark could ruin ‘PR’ Modi’s new inclusive avatar