An Institution Builder Dattopant Thengadi

• India is celebrating the birth centenary of the founder of BMS-ABVP • His stature can be compared to Karl Marx amongst the communists

Dr. Hari Desai Wednesday 27th November 2019 06:07 EST

It was a programme where Chandra Shekhar, the Prime Minister of India with the blessings of the Indian National Congress and Dattopant Thengadi (10 November 1920 - 14 October 2004), a hardcore RSS Pracharak as well as an institution builder, were sharing the dais at Patkar Hall, Mumbai during the time when it was being discussed that PM Shekhar would peacefully resolve the Ram Mandir issue of Ayodhya. At one stage Chandra Shekhar preferred to opt out of Morarji Desai ministry as he was the President of Janata Party. This writer wanted to interact with Thengadi and he advised to meet him at Pune as was to leave immediately after the Patkar Hall meeting. One definitely would feel nostalgic about the frank discussion with him at Pune while having lunch at a middle class house of his host. After the lunch Dattopant ji was to leave for a meeting in rickshaw. He invited me to join him. But since I was to return to Mumbai, I took his leave. Even after three decades, the incident continues to run like a film and one would not hesitate to salute the great man even today. A founder of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), which was recognized as the largest union of workers of the country even by the Congress government, was travelling in a rickshaw! Even when the Union Government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpeyee was about to allow the foreign investment by changing the policy, Thengadi, a founder of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), rushed back to India from South Africa to convince the government about the dangers of allowing foreign investment in certain sectors.

India is celebrating the birth centenary of such a pious personality this year. Thengadi and Vajpayee were contemporaries. Both joined RSS at a young age, just before the country got independence. Vajpayee -another pracharak - spent his days in building up political force in Bharatiya Jana Sangh and later Bharatiya Janata Party. Thengadi stayed in active politics and was a member of Rajya Sabha for two tenures from 1964 to 1976. During the Emergency, post arrests of RSS stalwarts and secretaries of Struggle Committee against Emergency Nanaji Deshmukh and Ravindra Verma, Thengadi took up the challenge of stitching together Janata Party. But he is credited largely as a founding father of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), SJM and a founding member of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad, Grahak Panchayat and Bharatiya Vichara Manch (BVM).

Today all these outfits not only create cadre for BJP but also mobilise policy implementation. Thengadi’s stature in RSS is the same that Karl Marx has amongst communists. He created BMS and BKS in the mid-50s when these movements were captured by Marxists in India. This was the time when Naxalism was also finding its roots among these two segments. He brought in the concept of class coordination and cooperation nullifying the Marxist idea of class struggle. Thengadi's philosophy pushed that the fight is against injustice and not against any class. He brought RSS's core idea of nationalism among workers and farmers. One would be surprised that he got the experience as a Joint Secretary of Madhya Pradesh branch of INTUC, the Congress affiliated trade union before launching the BMS.

Unlike the political leaders, Thengadi always favoured a collective leadership to build-up the organizations. He quotes Stephen Covey extensively on leadership distinguishing and defining the Character Ethic and Personality Ethic in simple terms as “How to be great” and “How to appear great” respectively. He says the leaders who prefer to go for image building and pose themselves as great by mere image building can lead the countries to dooms like Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. Covey refers to a Character Ethic, meaning to align one’s values with “universal and timeless” principles such as fairness, integrity, honesty and truthfulness, and treating people with respect. His principles are deep fundamental truths that have universal application. They apply in any situation, in any culture, and are found in the world’s major religions. Thus, they have components of the ethical values that form the basis of the Golden Rule. In the last 50 years, however, the emphasis shifted to public image, skills and techniques. The new, perceived keys to success are getting people to like you, faking interest in activities to get what you want and other ways to improve one’s image - Covey calls this Personality Ethic led by Charisma of the leader. Thengadi’s ultimate message was “Beware of Charisma.”

Next Column: Sardar Patel involved in Kashmir Affairs


1.Dattopant Thengadi

2.BMS celebrates a Birth Centenary of Thengadi ji

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