IN THE MONTHS leading up to the 2014 general election, Ram Madhav, the national spokesperson of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, sought an appointment with the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Shourie. Madhav had an intriguing request. He wanted Shourie to intervene with the BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, on behalf of Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS sarsanghchalak—supreme leader.
Bhagwat is the sixth sarsanghchalak of the RSS, a Hindu-nationalist organisation that emerged from within Nagpur’s Brahmin community, in 1925. Its network of affiliated outfits—known collectively as the Sangh Parivar—has penetrated almost every aspect of Indian society. As the head of the Hindutva family, the RSS provides ideological fuel for its roughly three dozen affiliate groups, which include the ruling party, one of the largest trade unions in the country, a student union active across various universities and a conglomeration of Hindu sadhus and monastic establishments. The sarsanghchalak reigns over this large amorphous system as its ultimate guide.
“You please talk to Narendrabhai about Mohanji,” Shourie recalled Madhav saying. There would have been good reason for Madhav to presume a closeness between Shourie and Modi. The two had met several times in 2013. On 18 October that year, Modi had released a book by Shourie. Because of all this, Shourie imagined, the word might have got around that he knew Modi well.