A true Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) man, Brig Jagdish Gagneja (retd) never comes out in the open but has a considerable say in the matters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Punjab. He is also considered a close confidant of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
“Why do you want to meet me, I am not an important man, you can’t get any news from me,” he would say when a journalist approached him.
Coming from a non-RSS family background, Gagneja, 68, joined the organisation as a “pracharak” before moving to the army, where he served for around 40 years, and again came into the right-wing organisation’s fold as “sanghchalak” in Jalandhar after hanging his boots in 2003.
He rose through the ranks over the years, starting as a “pracharak” and then district chief in 2003, and became second-in-command of RSS in the Punjab RSS after state president Brij Bhushan Bedi, five years ago. Since then, he is acting as a bridge between the RSS and the BJP. He took the RSS and BJP ideology to interior parts of Punjab and areas having considerable Dalit population.
Gagneja spent his college days in Bathinda and after retirement, he settled down in Jalandhar. Gagneja’s neighbours say they came to know about his stature when top leaders of the BJP and the Akali Dal started visiting his residence in their red-beacon vehicles. His army background went in his favour to be on a key position of the RSS in the border state, which has a complex religio-political framework.
“He is an asset for the BJP and face of the RSS in Punjab. He is a hardworking, dedicated and a competent leader,” said former state BJP chief Kamal Sharma.
State BJP chief Vijay Sampla said: “Gagneja is a non-controversial leader and is respected by all. He is also the binding force between the BJP and the RSS.”
“He is an important man in the party. He is consulted on all important decisions and is at the forefront while resolving conflicts within the party,” said a BJP leader. “He has so much respect in the party that his decisions are considered last word,” said another leader.
He worked from behind the scenes, kept a low profile, used to travel in public transport and never took security or used government paraphernalia.