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BJP battles history, Congress in RSS hometown

india Updated: Apr 06, 2009 00:11 IST
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Hindustan Times
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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), headquartered in Nagpur, is not involved in active politics, but its impact on the Indian political scene is immense. But in its hometown of Nagpur, the RSS has hardly made any inroads.

In one of the most ironical records in politics, the BJP, the political arm of the saffron outfit, has won just one Lok Sabha election from Nagpur — in 1998. It is the Congress that has held sway here since Independence. And, even the BJP’s 1998 winner — Banwarilal Purohit, a newspaper magnet associated with several educational and social organisations — is a former Congressman, who shifted

loyalties in the early ’90s when the Ram Mandir wave was sweeping the country. He lost his first election as a BJP candidate but his persistence paid off in 1998.

The RSS-BJP combine is now making a concentrated effort to regain its 1998 golden touch by fielding the then hero, Purohit, from Nagpur city. “Over 6,000 full-time Sangh Parivar members are working hard to ensure victory for the BJP,” claims Purohit.

However, Purohit and BJP’s has been a love-hate relationship. Soon after winning the 1998 Lok Sabha election, he fell out with BJP’s influential leader Pramod Mahajan and Nitin Gadkari. He contested the 1999 Lok Sabha election as a Congressman from Ramtek and the 2004 polls as a Vidarbha Praja party candidate. He lost both times.

Since then, Purohit lobbied hard to join the BJP. He case was helped by senior RSS leaders, including the then chief K.S. Sudarshan. Purohit’s persistence bore fruit when BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani announced his return to the party during the BJP national convention in February.

Now, the saffron camp is banking on the BSP eating into Congress’s dalit votes and also the infighting in the Congress Nagpur unit. If these two factors work in BJP’s favour, Purohit might repeat his 1998 feat.

Congress’ candidate from Nagpur is union minister Vilasrao Muttemwar.