The death of senior Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) leader Brig Jagdish Gagneja (retd) on Thursday, 45 days after he was shot at by two bike-borne assailants in Jalandhar, is a grim reminder of the failure of investigating agencies to nab his killers.
Though the state BJP chief Vijay Sampla has expressed “satisfaction” over the handing over the investigation into the attack on Gagneja to the CBI, a section of BJP leaders are critical of the party’s “lethargic” approach towards taking up the cause of the safety of Hindu leaders in Punjab with its “indifferent” ally — the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
“A palpable disenchantment has set in among the RSS cadre in Punjab. There is demoralisation. The BJP is part of the ruling alliance and killers of Hindu leaders are roaming free. BJP has failed to instill confidence among the RSS cadres and with elections barely four months away, the enthusiasm with which the RSS supports BJP is missing,” said a senior BJP leader on the condition of anonymity.
On Thursday, state BJP chief Vijay Sampla, however, said that all was well with the BJP-RSS ties. “The government has done all it could. Initial investigation led the Punjab Police to believe that there are international agencies and elements involved in the attack, which are beyond their reach. The investigation was handed to the CBI only after we talked to the SAD. The CBI is now probing the case and I am hopeful it will soon show results,” he said.
Attack on Gagneja, 68, who died at a Ludhiana hospital on Thursday, was one among the series of systematic attacks on Hindu leaders in Punjab in the past few years. In April, two motorcycle-borne assailants gunned down Punjab Shiv Sena’s labour wing chief Durga Prasad Gupta in Khanna. February saw two attacks on Shiv Sena leaders. In January RSS leader Naresh Kumar was shot at in Ludhiana.
The government has, as part of the subsequent steps, offered security to various BJP and RSS leaders. Under attack, however, is Sampla, whom other BJP leaders blame for keeping a “soft” stance towards the SAD. “Unlike the Shiv Sena whose workers took to the streets after the attacks on their leaders, RSS does not go about raisings slogans. They can only look up to the BJP to take up their concerns with the government. Sampla was given security along with bullet-proof vehicles by the state government. Did he even find out what security RSS leaders got?” asked another BJP leader.
When asked about the strengthening of his security, Sampla retorted, “I was offered the bullet-proof vehicle by the chief minister. If anyone is upset with it, I’ll surrender it. But it is wrong to say that RSS is upset with the BJP. It is only the creation of the media.”
Acknowledging that there is a simmering resentment within the RSS, many BJP leaders predict that it will not affect the BJP in the polls. “RSS workers are nationalists and completely dedicated. They cannot shift to Congress or the Aam Aadmi Party. They will work hand-in-hand with the BJP when it comes to polls,” said the BJP leader.
“I am also from the RSS and we do whatever the Sangh orders us to do,” said Dinesh Kumar, the state BJP general secretary (organisation). “This is not the way to look at these attacks. These have to be seen as attempts to disturb the peace in Punjab. The focus should be to ensure that Hindus and Sikhs live in harmony,” he added.