What happens when an RSS pracharak is made national general secretary of the BJP? The country got a glimpse of that, as did the RSS and the BJP, when Al Jazeera TV had Ram Madhav as the main guest on its show Head to Head, hosted by Mehdi Hasan. It churned passion among those interested in Indian politics like very few shows did, not counting breaking news like Prime Minister Narendra Modi's impromptu visit to Lahore to wish his good friend Nawaz Sharif.
Ram Madhav, who travels the world ahead of Modi's overseas visits and prepares the ground, wears two hats. The first being the one he has been wearing for many years—that of a member, leader and later spokesperson of the RSS. The more recent one is that of the general secretary of the BJP. For whatever reasons, he is the BJP's pointsman for Jammu and Kashmir.
At the show, he did not swing smoothly from one role to the other. Worse, he could not explain what he should have. The Akhand Bharat reference that has grabbed headlines, for instance. He could have easily said it was the dream of the RSS, and who is anyone else to prevent them from dreaming? It is not the ruling party's manifesto point. It is not the government's agenda. It is not even an issue of the slightest concern to Pakistan or Bangladesh.
The RSS dream may be blind to the reality of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Madhav did give examples of the wall collapsing between two Germanies or the Vietnam story. He suggested, though not in as many words, that borders are not altogether unalterable, in theory at least. He spoke of culture and the possibility of an Akhand Bharat whenever there is popular support and goodwill but he failed to make it clear that it is not a goal of the BJP or the government. Even if the party feels inspired by the RSS, he has no role in government.
History is clearly not Madhav's strong point. But it is elementary history that Babur invaded India as it was in 1526 when the first Battle of Panipat was fought. India eventually absorbed the Mughuls in every area—food, culture and people. The ability of India to absorb and warm up to invaders and increase its diversity was something Ram Madhav could not explain when asked if Mughuls were not being owned by the RSS as Indians. So too with the British who came as traders, formed the East India company and ruled over the land.
His response to the questions on intolerance, award wapsi and all the stats of communal figures clearly indicated that many BJP spokespersons—present and past—are better equipped to answer. Madhav let that day and that audience go home with an impression that all Hindus are communal, and worse, Indians generally are communal.
Like any good TV show host, Hasan had chosen his guests and panelists smartly, and was guiding the show in the direction of his theme—Is Modi's India heading towards fascism? The BJP general secretary, in all fairness, always wore a smile and was not ruffled for most part.
But when discussion centered around the touchy Kashmir issue, tailor-made for international eyeballs, Madhav said, “You worry about many more things that are happening. Your ISIS can catch hold of nuclear weapons.”
It was in response to Hasan's remark that they are worried about how India and Pakistan will solve the Kashmir problem because “the rest of the world cannot risk a nuclear war because you two countries cannot settle it (the Kashmir problem)”.
Madhav was provoked, he lost his mind and found his tongue!