With the BJP leadership desperately trying to reinvent itself as the true representative of Hindutva politics, some sections of the Sangh parivar continue to have serious reservations over the present lot’s ability to take the party towards its core ideology as also a victory in future elections. It is not without significance that senior VHP functionary Ashok Singhal took potshots at L.K. Advani on more than one occasion recently, knowing fully well that the BJP’s national executive meeting is due over the next weekend.
The VHP leader has opposed any move by Advani to rope in Swami Sarupanand Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Dwarka, for a parikrama of the temple site at Ayodhya on the grounds that it was a feeble attempt by the BJP leader to create a perception that the party was still as committed as ever to the Ram janmabhoomi movement. Many in the Sangh believe that Advani and A.B. Vajpayee let the saffron brigade down in not fulfilling the promise of the Ayodhya temple and thus lost the people’s faith.
Singhal and his colleagues have been critical of Advani and Vajpayee for compromising on the Sangh ideology. The RSS leadership has reiterated the need for the BJP to get back to its roots especially with the centenary celebrations of Guru Golwalkar on in full swing. Singhal’s objection is that Advani had lost the right to represent the Hindutva culture after his praise of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and that he had violated the very essence of what the Sangh stood for.
The December 2 show planned with the Shankaracharya was yet another attempt by Advani to wear the Hindutva hat. Since everyone in the Sangh could see through his game, the move was strongly opposed. Singhal then launched another attack on the BJP leader, accusing him of being intolerant and using his clout with the RSS many years ago to remove loyal Sangh soldiers from key posts. The reference was to the removal of Bhanu Pratap Shukla, a close confidante of Guru Golwalkar who was removed from his position as editor of the Panchajanya after an article where he asked the BJP leadership to lead or be led. Shukla died some days ago and the remarks were made at his terhvi meeting at Brindaban where top Sangh leaders were present.
Seen in the context of Sangh politics and the power tussle between the BJP and the RSS, Singhal’s views will have a bearing on the party’s future course. It may want to create the impression in Dehradun next week that it is returning to the Ayodhya issue for the next round of polls in UP and Uttaranchal. The party does not seem to be in a very happy state in UP, though it could benefit from a strong anti-incumbency factor against N.D. Tewari’s government in Uttaranchal. Singhal may not figure in any discussion at the national executive meeting where Advani and his men may have their way in adopting unanimous resolutions. But his views indicate that the disputes within the Sangh parivar remain unresolved.
The HRD Ministry’s circular on the compulsory singing of Vande Mataram on September 7 in schools has given the BJP something political to talk about to consolidate its Hindu vote bank. The singing will coincide with the BJP meeting and, therefore, is likely to be used to gain advantage through divisive politics. What the BJP has to realise is that Vande Mataram is the national song. Making an unnecessary issue of it will be helping a handful of people incite ignorant sections of Muslim society. The song must be respected by one and all and that is it. There can be no politics over it after the debate ended 70 years ago.
However, when the BJP meets, the questions which are likely to remain unanswered are about the two important changes that seem inevitable at this stage. There has been speculation about replacing Jaswant Singh as the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha for some time now, and more so, after his controversial book hit the stands. The RSS has been baying for his blood. And, the current BJP leadership is making every possible effort that in the event of a change, the position should go to a person of their choice rather than the RSS’s. It is to be seen who wins this round, since the succession itself has sparked a power tussle even within the coterie at the helm of party affairs.
The second question is whether Rajnath Singh will be retained as BJP president, or will the party have a new president before the end of this year. The uncertainty has arisen largely because of reports that Advani’s supporters want their leader to accept the presidentship for a record sixth time. There has been some talk about this even within the RSS. But Vajpayee has yet to express himself clearly on the issue. Second, Rajnath’s health has caused concern in Sangh quarters. They seem to be worried that with UP polls round the corner, an unfit BJP chief could prove to be a liability.
There is also been concern in Sangh circles over allegations of a serious nature levelled against the BJP chief, though no verdict for or against him has been pronounced so far. In addition, many in the BJP feel that to regain his fitness, the BJP president must review his food habits. In any case, the uncertainty is not going to help the party or its president in anyway. If Rajnath has to be changed, then the RSS or whoever has to decide must come out with the name of his successor quickly. That will be in the party’s interest. Whether it will be Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi or Venkaiah Naidu, only time will tell. The BJP has to resolve its inner conflicts if it has to once again emerge as a major political party. Between us.