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The great RSS U-turn

Mohan Bhagwat’s desire to appear as the Sangh's new Lauh Purush stands rusted and beyond repair. It’s as if a section officer of a ministry was to issue a clarification on a policy statement made by the Prime Minister, writes Pankaj Vohra.

columns Updated: Nov 23, 2009 01:47 IST
Pankaj Vohra

The overtures of two former chief ministers — Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh — to the BJP appear to be prompted by their desire to return to the saffron party, in view of the fast-changing political developments. Though Bharti has clarified that she would prefer becoming a part of the NDA since she had some differences with her erstwhile party, Kalyan Singh has no such qualms. In fact, both are weighing their chances by sending feelers to various leaders and, perhaps, feel that they may get accommodated in the new-look BJP.

Both Bharti and Singh are Lodhs and both were popular leaders. Among second-generation leaders in the BJP, Bharti was the only mass leader before Narendra Modi came on the scene. Her disillusionment with the party was on account of the coterie around L.K. Advani, which she felt was always conspiring against her.

Bharti’s feeler to the top leadership was sent when it became more or less clear that her tormentors were going to be replaced. But she has reservations now, since the RSS, under pressure from the D-4 leaders — Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and Sushma Swaraj — seems to have changed its stance towards them.

In the case of Kalyan Singh, his love affair with Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav is over. He now feels that the party used and then dumped him. The timing of his dumping coincides with that of Rajnath Singh’s exit as party chief. The push factor behind Kalyan leaving the BJP was its president, Rajnath. Now with Rajnath out, the field is open for him to make his importance felt again in the saffron brigade. But vested interests may ensure that both Kalyan and Uma remain out.

But what could be most distressing for the RSS is that it has reconciled to the possible continuation of the D-4 leaders in their positions of importance under pressure. In other words, Mohan Bhagwat — the RSS Sarsanghchalak who had publicly belittled the four prominent leaders — has taken a U-turn. He has allowed a junior functionary of the Sangh, Manmohan Vaidya, to issue a clarification on his stand, thereby, again spelling hope for these leaders.

In doing so, the RSS has not only diluted its earlier stand but the Sarsanghchalak has ended up with egg on his face. More important, the four leaders close to Advani have realised that the chief was vulnerable to pressure and so can be pressurised in the future too.

The entire episode is somewhat similar to what had happened in 2005 when the then RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan, in an off-the-cuff remark to Shekhar Gupta in his TV show, had stated that both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani should retire from active politics. The Advani coterie had swung into action and the RSS, through Mohan Bhagwat — who was at that time the Sarkaryavah (general secretary) and the second-in-command — had diluted Sudarshan’s wish.

The tradition continues even now and the office of Sarsanghchalak stands compromised. In the latest instance since the clarification has come from Vaidya, who is many notches below Bhagwat, the RSS chief’s desire to appear as the Sangh’s new (Lauh Purush) stands rusted and beyond repair. It is as if a section officer of a ministry was to issue a clarification on a policy statement made by the Prime Minister. It would have been far better if Bhagwat himself had eaten his own words rather than make Vaidya do it.

The fallout of the episode could have serious repercussions for Nitin Gadkari who is being portrayed as the RSS’s choice for the BJP president’s position. If he were to fail, the RSS will have to face the consequences.

The chances of Gadkari succeeding will now depend on the extent of cooperation that he gets from the D-4 leaders, whom the RSS wanted out but now says they were never out. Politicians are not gullible and the present RSS chief is certainly in for a very rough time unless he speaks upfront on the subject. This round has gone to Advani. Between us.