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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Dec 2014

Road clear for Modi, hint new RSS-BJP talks

Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 07, 2013
First Published: 19:13 IST(7/7/2013) | Last Updated: 09:19 IST(8/7/2013)

Last week's back-to-back meetings between top BJP leaders and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat indicate a new course in the party's ties with its ideological parent.

Bhagwat’s separate meetings with LK Advani, Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi comes against the backdrop of the saffron brigade bracing for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The latest discussions took place, surprisingly, at the Sangh's invitation after a bitter phase of intra-BJP rivalry that saw Advani eventually retract resignation from key posts he had tendered in a huff following the appointment of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the party’s campaign chief at the end of the BJP’s Goa conclave in June.

There are at least three pointers to what is in the offing, say highly-placed insiders in the RSS and BJP.

First, there will be no hindrance to Modi's role as leading the BJP charge for the 2014 polls. Other leaders including Advani will not stand in the way of his campaign ideas, plans and programmes and present a united face of "smooth cooperation."

The RSS wants all BJP leaders to realise that Modi, as BJP's most popular face, should have unstinted support to enable the party to build on his popularity for better electoral returns, sources believe.

Secondly, the RSS will ensure that Advani's relevance and role as the senior-most leader, both in the run-up and in the post-poll scenario, will not be eclipsed. The Sangh will not bless any bid by anyone on this score, and effect "correctives" wherever deemed necessary.

In other words, the Sangh will also not stand in the way of Advani playing any role, depending on how the numbers stack up after the Lok Sabha elections, as head of the National Democratic Alliance in seeking new allies or alternatives to wrest power.

Hitherto, the perception in BJP was that the RSS was dead against any role for Advani and wanted him to gradually embrace retirement and encourage a younger generation to take charge. That view was enforced more pronounced since the row over Advani's praise for Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah at his mausoleum in Karachi in 2005.

That episode was, in fact, the beginning of the 85-year-old leader's stature taking a hit. He was made to step down as the BJP’s chief and later asked to hand over reins in Parliament to new opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

In the new scenario, the RSS leaders would be "flexible" and want Advani to lend his "mentorship advice" to help the younger team push for BJP's revival utilising the "new-found enthusiasm" for Modi across the country, RSS insiders said.

Those backing Advani and opposed to Modi believe that the post-poll scenario will offer more scope for him to play his card if the numbers elude the BJP from pushing Modi for the top slot.

Also, a third pointer is former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari will re-emerge as Sangh's new pointman and trouble shooter for any BJP-RSS interface while Rajnath Singh will remain at the helm to push Modi's projection.

Gadkari was denied a second term in January by scandals involving his formerly held Purti Group, which forced his colleagues to pick Rajnath Singh as his successor.

But Gadkari's isolation so far was a sore point with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

Consequently, Rajnath Singh will now assign him the charge of supervising assembly polls in Delhi and Rajasthan, where internal squabbles are a challenge to BJP's hopes of a comeback. Singh had previously been unenthusiastic about a bigger role for Gadkari as sought by Advani.


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