RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s reiteration that none of the four Delhi-based second-generation leaders of the BJP was in consideration for the position of the saffron party’s presidentship provides clear indication that L.K. Advani’s coterie is fast losing its grip. Although Bhagwat had hinted at this even in his last interview to a TV channel, sections of the media had tried to turn the news around by stating that one of the four may be the party president after Rajnath Singh, whose term ends next month.
In fact, misinterpretation of most of the developments within the BJP has been deliberately done over the last few months to give more time to Advani, whose tenure as leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha may also come to an end shortly. But it appears now that the RSS has conveyed to Advani that he should announce his retirement plan with a specific date. This concession has been granted keeping in view Advani’s long service to the party.
If sources in the RSS are to be believed, Advani, who turned 82 yesterday, had wanted that he be allowed to continue as the leader of opposition till the end of the winter session. While conceding his demand, the RSS had also told him that he should announce his date of retirement before the session began. In addition, he should not name any successor as this would have to be decided by the BJP parliamentary party.
It is no secret that Advani wants Sushma Swaraj, his deputy in the Lok Sabha, to succeed him. By doing so, he wants to ensure that his main rival Murli Manohar Joshi, the senior-most BJP leader after him, does not replace him. However, the choice of the new leader of opposition obviously will have to be made in consultation with the RSS. It will be surprising if Swaraj gets the job as she isn’t even being considered for BJP presidentship.
In other words, it is unlikely that any of the four — M. Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and Sushma Swaraj — will enjoy their present importance after the party’s apparatus is overhauled during the next two months. Had any of them been in contention for any important position, Bhagwat would not have been so categorical in dismissing their claim for the presidentship. Thus, if none of them is being found to be suitable to hold the BJP’s president’s post, it is very doubtful that they would be part of the new scheme of things. There is no doubt that all four have their qualities and are capable in many respects. But the RSS, for some reason, seems to take a dim view of their virtues, at least for now.
Bhagwat’s latest interview has also broadly outlined the non-negotiable agenda for the party as well as rest of the sangh parivar. He has said there could be no compromise on commitment to Indian nationalism and unity, the demand for Article 370 being abolished, the uniform civil code and the construction of the Ram temple. That clearly means the RSS wants the BJP to return to its basic ideology.
Bhagwat is also keen that a younger leader who works closely with the Sangh to further its ideology heads the party. But he has not advocated at any place that the leaders of the opposition in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha should be from the younger lot. It implies that the RSS is prepared to settle for experience and may not insist on an age bar for the new incumbents.
Many political analysts critical of the RSS for stating that it would not interfere in BJP affairs while playing a pro-active role in party affairs have to understand one basic thing: most BJP cadres are drawn from the RSS. Therefore, when the RSS chief has a wish-list, all the cadres are expected to honour it. This is how politics in the Sangh works.