RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has kicked off a major controversy with his recent remark over Mother Teresa by saying that conversion to Christianity was her main objective behind her service to the poor. The timing of such a controversial statement from Bhagwat will only pose further trouble to an already sidelined Modi government that is facing its first big test in the ongoing budget session.
What Mohan Bhagwat said?
"Mother Teresa's service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian," Bhagwat said after inaugurating a ‘Mahila Sadan' and ‘Sishu Bal Grah' in a village near Bharatpur.
The Sarsanghchalak further added, "The question is not about conversion but if this is done in the name of service, then that service gets devalued."
Mohan Bhagwat criticised for his statement
This has irked the Christian community which has taken strong exception to RSS chief's remark. They have lodged their protest against Bhagwat for demeaning the Nobel laureate who dedicated her life to the service to mankind.
An opportunity for so-called secular groups to target the government
The remark has not only brought Sangh under trouble in fact it has also brought an uninvited problem to the Narendra Modi-led NDA government at Centre. Opposition parties are leaving no stones unturned to go all guns blazing against BJP, which is political offshoot of the RSS.
Congress and the so-called 'secular parties' who are always in the look out for an opportunity to target the BJP, have just got one, in Mohan Bhagwat's statement, to attack the government.
Congress leader Sachin Pilot, while criticising the statement by Bhagwat, said, "By giving these kind of statements, they (the RSS) are trying to create a religious divide. Mother Teresa comes from which religion does not matter, what matters most is the service she provided to the poor."
Bhagwat was misquoted, clarifies RSS
To subside the raging controversy, the RSS came up with a justification that Sangh chief's statement was mis-attributed.
"Media reporting wrongly. At Bharatpur Ex-DG BSF said that Mother Teresa did Seva with motive of conversion," said a tweet on RSS' official Twitter handle.
"In reply Bhagavatji said, 'let Mother Teresa know her motive for Seva, we do Seva without expecting any returns' Dr M Vaidya," said another tweet.
Even BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi has come out in support of RSS chief saying Mother Teresa had herself in an interview said that her job was to bring people to the fold of Christianity.
Defending Bhagwat's remarks, Shiv Sena on Wednesday said he had spoken the "bitter truth".
"The objective of missionaries who came to India has been to convert people here to Christianity," an editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamana said.
Mohan Bhagwat not the only one to question Mother Teresa's legacy
There is also a group of intellectuals who share similar thoughts about Mother Teresa and have been critical about the work and philosophy of the Nobel Laureate.
Controversial British-American author and journalist Christopher Hitchens had views similar to that of the Sangh chief. Criticising Mother Teresa he had called her a fanatic, fundamentalist and a fraud. Hitchens even questioned Mother Teresa's motives, modesty and devotion to the poor.
But because Mohan Bhagwat hails from a right wing organisation he's more prone to criticism. Bhagwat's statement affects the BJP the most because the saffron party is integral part of the Sangh Parivar. The BJP is often labeled as a non-secular party by the so-called secular opposition hence it has to bear the consequences of such controversies.
Bhagwat could have avoided such remarks
At a time when the Narendra Modi Government is facing challenges to get crucial bills passed in the Parliament and making efforts to bring the opposition on the same page, statements like these will only make things worse for the Centre.
The government is already facing pressure from an 'united' opposition over clearing important ordinance and bills to ensure big bang reforms to bring the economy back on track. With incidents like these, government's development agenda will get a halt as the Parliament sessions are likely to get stormy if such things continue.
It was during the Winter Session when the government had to face massive embarrassment because of its two MP's namely, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Sakshi Maharaj who made divisive remarks. Their remarks pushed the Modi government to the wall and the matter got resolved only after PM's statement on the floor of the House.
Hence, it would have been better if RSS chief, considering the gravity of situation, had avoided making any such statement which could give ammo to the political rivals.
Also, making statements over someone like Mother Teresa, who is the face of the India's Christian community will also alienate the minority community from the Modi government, which is already in troubled waters due to its pro-Hindutva identity.
It is high time BJP distances itself from such issues and focus more towards its agenda of development. The party paid the price of making and later defending insensitive remarks of its leaders during the recently concluded Delhi polls. If it wants to improve its performance in upcoming state polls then the party must not divert from its politics of development.