If anyone was holding their breath for an announcement of a prime ministerial candidate at the recent BJP-RSS meet, they can exhale for the moment. No such decision seems to have been taken for the moment though senior party leader Yashwant Sinha has asserted that none other than Gujarat CM and campaign chief Narendra Modi will occupy that position.
The meeting of the party and its parent body was significant in that the BJP seems to have dropped all pretence that the RSS is only a distant mentor.
In the meeting which discussed issues ranging from the economy to security, the RSS seemed very much in the driver’s seat. In the past, leaders like LK Advani have taken pains to say that politics is the party’s domain whereas broader ideology was delineated by the RSS.
But Mr Advani found to his chagrin that going against the RSS as he did with his remark on Jinnah cost him very dearly and to this day, it does not seem that the saffron organisation has forgotten what it perceived as a challenge to its core beliefs.
The very fact that Mr Advani was not present at the meeting shows that the baton has passed decisively to Mr Modi despite the reservations of many in the party. The greater emphasis on coordination between the RSS and BJP is to smooth out the inherent differences between the two.
The RSS is clear that it wants the party to promote the agenda of Hindutva while Mr Modi is likely to be more comfortable with projecting development as his USP. But, in the deliberations, the RSS seems to have displayed a certain degree of realism that it cannot steer the party to power on the Hindutva plank.
It has to take into the account the aspirations of today’s voters for whom Hindutva has little resonance. The RSS will, it would seem, ensure that all sangh organisations will work together to bring the party to power, focusing mainly on the failings of the UPA government.
However, what is disturbing is the overweening role the RSS is now openly playing in the affairs of the BJP to the extent of dictating terms to elected leaders like Mr Advani.
It is accountable to no one, is not an elected body and is run with utmost secrecy. The influence it has on the opposition party and the potential government in waiting is a cause for some alarm in that the party has never been able to detach itself from the RSS.
On the contrary, as divisions in the BJP grow, the RSS is exerting more influence over party affairs than it ever has.
This may provide gains for the BJP in the short-term. But at some point of time, the RSS has to understand that it cannot wield such great power without responsibility and that it has to stop shooting from the shoulder of the BJP sooner rather than later.
For this the BJP has to assert itself, something it seems reluctant to do at present after a prolonged period out of power.