The future of top BJP leaders could depend on the outcome of the high-level RSS meeting currently being held in Dharvar in Karnataka, and which is expected to end on November 7, a day before Leader of the Opposition, LK Advani, celebrates his 80th birthday. What will be worth watching is whether Advani will get the Sangh’s endorsement as the political party’s prime ministerial candidate in the next parliamentary poll. Or, will this again be postponed due to the Sangh leadership’s indecisiveness, which has already become a cause of worry for the parivar and could have a bearing on the RSS’s future?
The conclave is being attended by prant pracharaks and shetriya pracharaks, many of whom had objected to Advani’s statement on Mohammad Ali Jinnah during his visit to Pakistan in 2005. It is being speculated whether the RSS will accept the leadership of a person who is yet to render any unconditional regret for, or even withdraw, the statements that had led to his ouster as the BJP president in December 2005.
The question is, if the RSS endorses his leadership, what impact will it have on the future of the Sangh, which has showcased itself as the flag-bearer of the Hindutva ideology and proclaims itself to be a cultural outfit? Cadres appear to be worried that any attempt to compromise on ideology could very well spell the Sangh’s end. As things stand today, the Sangh has been helplessly watching as acute factionalism in the BJP dilutes the very essence of the doctrine on which the party had been founded initially. Therefore, at this stage, if ‘Jinnahwad’, as Advani’s position on the subject is being termed, triumphs, the script for the final chapter of the Sangh could have very well been written. To describe Jinnah, who precipitated the division of the country, as a secularist is the anti-thesis of everything that the Sangh parivar has believed.
The RSS’s dilemma is acute since the Sangh’s image has been on the decline for the last decade or so, and its failure to attract youngsters into its fold has become a cause of concern. Though on paper, say in a place like Delhi, there are 1,500 shakhas held every morning, in reality, it may not even be one-third this number. The successive defeat of ABVP candidates at the hands of the NSUI in DUSU polls is attributed to the decline of the RSS’s influence in the city. This is primarily because the BJP compromised on the basic tenets of Hindutva to remain in power, giving up on issues like the uniform civil code, abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and the resolve to construct the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
RSS cadres are also pinning their hopes on Sarkaryavah Mohan Bhagwat, a man committed to ideology, to bail them out of the mess created because of conflicts within the parivar. It is being speculated that the ailing Sarsanghchalak, K Sudarshan, may finally pave the way for Bhagwat to succeed him as the RSS supremo and thus end these conflicts. In fact, the change could even come during the present conclave.
Even Bhagwat’s opponents within the parivar, who are in a minority, concede that it is inevitable that he will take over. So, their focus is instead on the person who will succeed him in the number two position as sarkaryavah. The three possible contenders are all joint general secretaries. Madan Das Devi is close to the Advani camp, Suresh Soni coordinates the RSS-BJP affairs and Suresh Joshi looks after other organisational aspects. If Bhagwat’s current position goes to anyone but Devi, it may have an adverse impact on Advani’s future as the BJP’s top-most leader, given that Atal Bihari Vajpayee is suffering from poor health.
With Bhagwat as the RSS head, the outfit’s focus may also shift from its current emphasis on the power game being played by the BJP to the overall commitment of the parivar towards ideology. This shift will be considered by Sangh hardliners as the revival of Golwalkar’s thesis.
Golwalkar had advocated that in order to transform society, the Sangh should work towards changing individuals through ideology. But his successors, Bala Saheb Deoras and Rajinder Singh, said that power should become the instrument for change in society and for individuals to move towards Hindutva. Yet, six-and-half years of power experienced of the BJP proved beyond doubt that this thesis was faulty. In the process, the BJP had even moved away from the basics of Hindutva, leading to the parivar’s overall decline. This could be arrested once Bhagwat takes over.
The Sangh has, over the past year or so, been distancing itself from the BJP after being repeatedly castigated by senior leaders like Advani for interfering in the party’s day-to-day affairs. Matters have come to a stage where the RSS has not endorsed Narendra Modi’s leadership in Gujarat, asking its cadres to support whoever they wish to in the upcoming polls.
This could have a bearing on the outcome of the polls, where Modi and his supporters may find it difficult to overcome a spirited challenge from the Congress and its allies.
The RSS’s strategy seems to be to give the Sangh and its constituents a younger and ideologically-sound leadership. In this context, the words of the late DB Thengdi, who was overlooked for the RSS chief’s position to help pro-Vajpayee elements gain control, is being cited. Thengdi, commenting on Mahatma Gandhi’s remarks that if he had strength, he would not have allowed the Partition to take place, had stated that in future, the nation’s leadership should always be young and strong and not old and infirm.
The next few days could be decisive for the future of the Sangh parivar. Between us.