India polls: Grassroots Hindu group says it won't 'remote control' Modi

NAGPUR, India (AFP) - A grassroots Hindu nationalist group with ties to India's incoming government said on Friday it was ready to offer advice, but would not impose its hardline agenda after its most famous alumnus, Mr Narendra Modi, won a landslide election victory.

Mr Suresh Joshi, the general secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), said his organisation would be happy to make suggestions to the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government if requested, but would not seek to run it by "remote control".

"Any government which is run by remote control is not good for democracy," Mr Joshi said at the RSS's headquarters in the city of Nagpur in the western state of Maharashtra.

Asked by AFP what role the RSS would play in the new government, Mr Joshi replied: "No role. If they ask us we will suggest (ideas) to them."

Mr Modi, 63, was an active campaigner in the RSS into his 30s, and members have voiced hope that he will try and advance a "Hindutva," or Hindu nationalist agenda in government.

The RSS has twice been banned, but several other senior members of Mr Modi's BJP who are expected to take up important posts in his new government are also former members of the organisation.

By securing an overall majority - the first by any party in three decades - the BJP will not have to work with coalition partners who might otherwise shackle Hindutva policies.

RSS followers played a significant grassroots role in campaigning for Mr Modi during the election contest, even though he made issues such as the economy and development the main focus of his campaign.

But, while Mr Modi has said development is his "religion," the party's manifesto included a pledge to build a temple to honour the Hindu god Ram at the site of a former mosque in northern India, a religious flashpoint that sparked deadly rioting in 1992.

Mr Modi's decision to stand for parliament from the holy city of Varanasi was also seen as a way of burnishing his Hindu credentials among voters.

Mr Joshi said the defeat of the secular Congress party showed that "millions of voters have expressed their desire for change".

"We are hopeful that the newly-elected government will be successful in fulfilling the people's aspirations," Mr Joshi said in a statement.

"By setting aside the ideological, religious and social differences, we expect the new government to create an environment where the nation stays united, there is total social inclusiveness and no one ever feels exploited."

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