Rajju Bhayya laid great emphasis on expanding the RSS’ footprint among marginalised sections of the society through social service projects
It was 11 March, 1994 and a meeting of the highest decision-making body of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) – Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha – was underway at the Dr Hedgewar Auditorium in its headquarter at Reshim Bagh, Nagpur. It was 10 in the morning and the Sarkaryavah (General Secretary) of the RSS, HV Seshadri welcomed around a thousand representatives who had come from all over the country to participate in the deliberations.
Seshadri then paid homage to some key persons who had passed away recently and then presented an overall review of the RSS’ activities. Then there was some movement on the left flank and everyone saw that around half-a-dozen swayamsevaks were bringing the fourth RSS chief, Balasaheb Deoras to the stage. Deoras was on a wheel-chair. With the help of swayamsevaks, he came to the stage.
A microphone was placed in front of him and he started addressing the gathering in a low-pitched voice, “Pujaniya (Revered) Guruji had handed over me this responsibility in 1973. With support from all of you, I have been able to shoulder this responsibility till now; but due to failing health, it is not possible for me to travel. That is why, after consulting all the senior workers, I have taken the decision that this responsibility should now be taken up by Professor Rajendra Singh (popularly known as ‘Rajju Bhayya’) from today. I am sure Rajju Bhayya would also get the same support. I would also try my best to contribute as a swayamsevak.”
It was 10:40 am when this announcement ended. The atmosphere in the auditorium was sober and a bit emotional. Balasaheb gave a bunch of flowers and a coconut as a mark of an auspicious beginning to Rajju Bhayya. Then it was time for the newly appointed fourth chief of the RSS to address the gathering. Rajju Bhayya made a brief speech in which he wished well to everyone and sought their support for his new role and responsibility in the organisation.
Rajju Bhayya was the first RSS chief in its history till then, who had not worked with its founder Hedgewar directly.
He entered RSS after the Quit India movement of 1942. Rajju Bhayya had actively participated in this movement in Prayag (Uttar Pradesh) and had interacted with several senior Congress leaders like Purushottam Das Tandon, Lal Bahadur Shastri amongst others.
After the movement ended without the desired result, there was frustration all around. Rajju Bhayya was in the final year of MSc. He asked many Congress leaders about the future plans but didn’t get any satisfactory response as the Congress leadership itself was in the doldrums and unsure about the future course of action. He was disillusioned with this state of indecision and, hence, became aloof from the activities of the Congress Party. That was the time when he came in contact with RSS Pracharak, Bapurao Moghe through one of his fellow students, Shyamnarayan Shrivastava and another student Shantaram who was his neighbour. Moghe was five to six years older than Rajju Bhayya. They started meeting regularly and Rajju Bhayya started attending a daily Shakha which used to be held near his house.
Rajju Bhayya was born on 29 January, 1922 in Uttar Pradesh. At that time, his father was posted in Shahjahanpur. Rajju Bhayya’s two younger brothers – Vijendra and Yatindra – were born in 1926 and 1932. His father Balbir Singh was an executive engineer in the irrigation department and mother Jwala Devi was a homemaker.
In 1941, Rajju Bhayya completed his BSc. and was among the top five students in the University from Allahabad University. He finished his post-graduation also from the same and joined the Allahabad University as a faculty in the Physics department. Impressed by his calibre, Nobel Laureate CV Raman invited him to work with him at Bengaluru but Rajju Bhaiyya thought this would affect the RSS work that he was entrusted with in Prayag. He had chosen his path and had decided to devote himself for the RSS work.
From 1943 to 1966 he continued to teach at Allahabad University and donned the responsibility of the head of the department. In January, 1966 he resigned from the university and joined the RSS full-time. Initially, he worked in Bihar to expand the Sangh network there.
In 1975, when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency, Rajju Bhayya played an important role in the underground resistance movement as he kept on moving from one place to another under the alias professor Gaurav Singh.
During Emergency, When Indira Gandhi decided to amend the Constitution, Rajju Bhayya played an instrumental role in organising a seminar to discuss the proposed amendments at Constitution Club of India in New Delhi where legal luminaries like Soli Sorabjee and public figures like Acharya Kripalani delivered inspiring and daring speeches. It was unthinkable during those days to organise such an event. Krishnakant (who later became the Vice President of India) also played an important role in putting Rajju Bhayya in touch with all these luminaries. The event left Intelligence Bureau and the Indira government embarrassed. This resulted in a series of similar programmes organised all over the country.
In 1977, when the general elections were announced, Rajju Bhayya played an important role in bringing the Opposition together, paving way for the historic victory of Janata Party. After the announcement of the General Elections, Rajju Bhayya met Chaudhary Charan Singh, Morarji Desai, George Fernandes and many other senior leaders who were not sure whether the Opposition is in a position to even contest polls. But he assured them and encouraged them to come together and contest polls jointly. Not many know that Rajju Bhayya prepared the early ground for the opposition unity after emergency, which helped a united Opposition to defeat Congress led by Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi.
Rajju Bhayya’s unparalleled organisational skills resulted in him being appointed as the Sahsarkaryawah (Joint General Secretary) of the RSS in 1977 and in 1978, he was elevated to shoulder a greater responsibility as the Sarkaryawah (General Secretary) of the organisation.
On 11 March, 1994, Balasaheb Deoras set up a new precedent appointing a new RSS Sarsanghchalak during his lifetime. Till then, the new Sarsanghchalak would took over only when the earlier one had passed away. But Balasaheb announced Rajju Bhayya as the new Sarsanghchalak during his life time. Rajju Bahiyya carried this tradition forward by nominating KS Sudarshan as Sarsanghchalak in 2000 during his life time and Sudarshan carried forward this tradition when he nominated Mohan Bhagwat in 2009. Bhagwat is the Sarsanghchalak at present.
Militant Hindus or assertive Hindus
While addressing an impressive gathering of Indians at Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, London (UK), Rajju Bhayya recalled an interview given to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), after the ban on the RSS was lifted in 1993. “After the ban on the RSS was lifted, a BBC correspondent came to me and asked me you seem to be a different type of Hindu. So, shall we call you militant Hindus?” I told him, “We are neither submissive Hindus, nor militant Hindus. We are ‘Assertive Hindus’ as we keep forward our viewpoint and thoughts with conviction and firmness. We don’t feel ashamed to be called Hindus. We are proud to be Hindus. Others should not humiliate us, that is why, we have to say this with firmness.”
Yes to social service, no to politics
Rajju Bhayya laid great emphasis on expanding the RSS’ footprint among marginalised sections of the society through “Sewa Prakalpas” (Social Service projects). During his tenure as the Sarsanghchalak, the RSS’ ideological mentee Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power at the Centre and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a former RSS Pracharak, became prime minister of the country. Rajju Bhayya was very clear about RSS’ relation with politics.
He said, “It is wrong to say that the RSS is being influenced by politics. The truth is that we have never given much importance to politics. …Our only interest is that good people should get elected in the political field. We do not assume that the political establishment will transform the society. But if good people get elected, then they wouldn’t create hurdles in the way of national work, they won’t go for bans and against Hindutva. If that much is ensured, we can do rest of the work…”
After voluntarily retiring from the post of Sarsanghchalak, Rajju Bhayya continued to work for the organisation. He used to be present in all the important meetings and programmes. He continued to travel to various parts of the country. But unlike in the past, when he was travelling at breakneck speed from one place to another, now he stayed at a place for a few days. During his stay, he would meet swayamsevaks (RSS volunteers) working in different fields individually as well as collectively. He always insisted on one thing it was not necessary to have a designation or a post to work for society. Everyone should continue to work for society in whatever capacity one can till the last breath.
Rajju Bhayya used to spend a lot of time at Kaushik Ashram in Pune during the last couple of years of his life. He would spend his time listening to religious songs (bhajans), shlokas, etc. People from all over the country continued to visit him. RSS swayamsevaks used to visit him regularly and read English and Hindi newspapers to him every day. In April 2003, he suffered a foot fracture. Though his foot healed, but he couldn’t recover completely and his movements got restricted. On 14 July, 2013, he suffered a heart attack at and passed away.
Rajju Bhayya had already told several senior RSS functionaries that his last rites should be performed wherever he dies. The relatives and family of Rajju Bhayya had also no objection to this. His body was cremated at Pune on the evening of 15 July, 2013.
The writer, an author and columnist, has authored several books on RSS. Views expressed are personal.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.