Circles: Starting the Indian Revolution (Part 5)

Shiv Sena Shakhas

Shakhas are not unique to the RSS. The Shiv Sena in Mumbai has also organised itself around Shakhas. In a 1980 paper, Dipankar Gupta details how the shakhas worked and facilitated its rise:

The shakhas are the “organizational wing” primarily because they take the major responsibility of organizing the Shiv Sena activities. It is also through the shakhas that the Shiv Sena retains its contact with the masses. They are the backbone of the Shiv Sena. One municipal ward of 25,000-30,000 voters is under the jurisdiction of a shakha.

…The shakhas generally excel in municipal work like building and repairing roads, solving drainage and water problems. The bulk of their day to day activity is of this kind. The complaints are taken down in writing, and then their corporators, if they have any in that ward, are appraised of the problem. If they do not have any corporators then Shiv Sainiks take the case to their other corporators and help to solve the problem. In this process many Shiv Sainiks have learnt the formalities and procedures of getting things done in the corporation. This alone is a big help to the complainants of the ward as they are mostly unaware of the complex procedures of the municipal corporation. In rural and semi- rural areas outside Greater Bombay they have to face different problems like those of land rent, the fixing of water and electricity connections, the problem of state transport buses and so on.

…The shakhas participate heartily in cultural festivals like the Ganapati,Janamashtami, and Shivaji Jayanti, and they usually organize these festivals in their locality. These festivals are occa- sions for building up the Shiv Sena ethos.

…The shakhas are the basic units through which the Shiv Sena reaches out to the rank and file of the population. They are primarily responsible for enlarging and consolidating the mass base of the Shiv Sena.

Ideological-driven movements and organisations like the RSS and Shiv Sena have built a bottom-up network of people who become the cadre during peace-time and booth workers during war-time (elections). This is one of the keys to the electoral success of the BJP and the Shiv Sena – the ground force works as a “get out the vote” machine on election day.

The question to think is: how does this change in the post-pandemic world of digital politics?

Tomorrow: Part 6

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.