Haryana agriculture minister Om Prakash Dhankar has added fuel to the Opposition fire that the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is pushing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology in the state.
At the inauguration of a state-sponsored gymnasium in Panchkula, Dhankar said that such gyms would also be used as RSS shakhas (units), reports said.
The Haryana-government plans to set up gymnasiums on two-acre Panchayati land in every village where the youth can practise yoga, wrestling and games like volleyball and kabaddi and also do some weight training.
Earlier, Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma had said that the gyms would also be used as RSS units. Asked in that context, Dhankar confirmed that the state-funded gyms would be used as RSS branches.
Dhankar got immediate support from his Cabinet colleagues. Food and Supplies Minister Karan Dev Kamboj told the media that RSS units are also used for exercising and playing games.
“Shakhas don’t indulge in any activity which prohibits gyms from being used as RSS units. I don’t think there is anything wrong in using gyms as shakhas. RSS shakhas have been in existence since 1925,” he said.
Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Anil Vij seconded Kamboj saying, “RSS shakhas are used for exercising and playing games. If gyms are used for this purpose, what is the harm?” he asked.
“Out of the target of setting up 1,000 gymnasiums, 300 have already been opened. We are in the process of hiring yoga trainers. Besides that, the youth will be trained in kabaddi, wrestling and volleyball.”
The Opposition was quick to pounce upon Dhankar’s statement saying it is another attempt by the Khattar government to promote RSS ideology in Haryana on the pretext of setting up gyms for the youth.
Haryana Congress MLA Karan Singh Dalal slammed the Khattar government saying, “If the education minister (Sharma) says RSS workers will set up shakhas at gyms, it is highly condemnable. Using government funds to promote RSS agenda is a criminal conspiracy.”
Praveen Attrey, state spokesperson, Indian National Lok Dal questioned the use of state property by a private organisation.
“The gyms are government property and RSS is a private organisation. How can a private organsiation use state property to promote its agenda? If the state government believes that it can use government property to promote RSS agenda, it is highly condemnable,” he said.