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In BJP vs BJP fight, RSS has emerged stronger

Last updated on: August 29, 2009 

In BJP vs BJP fight, RSS has emerged stronger

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

The emergence of a new Bharatiya Janata Party is imminent if the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh brokered deal works out.

Before the end of year, BJP chief Rajnath Singh and senior leader L K Advani will lose their status within the party and hold over the party apparatus, says a top source in the Sangh Pariwar.

According to him, a solution is being worked out where the two major warring factions would lose substantially for the party. He, importantly, said that those who remained silent during the dirty war played in the media may stand to gain.

Notwithstanding RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's claim in Friday's press conference that his outfit does not interfere in the BJP's affairs, it seems that a ceasefire is being worked out with the help of RSS and once it comes into place a lot of overhauling is bound to happen.

Image: BJP chief Rajnath Singh with senior leader LK Advani
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
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The only thing that seems to be hazy is the type of BJP that would emerge post the changes. Will it be hawkish on Hindutva or politically flexible and ideologically pragmatic on the sensitive Hindutva issues with a focus on development?

A party insider says that it will depend on the way Rajnath's successor gives the spin.

The Jhandewalan headquarters named 'Keshav Kunj' is the 10, Janpath (Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's residence) for the BJP. Things work here with authority and without ambiguity.

The RSS chief's press conference at Kehsav Kunj was an extraordinary event for this conservative and old-fashioned organisation where women do not hold any position in its top governing bodies.

Some 70 photographers, 200 journalists and over 50 TV cameramen jostled to get a glimpse of the man and his views.

Image: RSS cadre attend a convention in Kolkata

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Bhagwat was cool and composed. He used his moment like a New Delhi TV veteran. He wasn't caught off-guard and exploited the opportunity to the fullest by sending a message to the Hindutva brigade across country that he is at work and trying to salvage the BJP before it decimates itself.

He also inserted, in his opening remarks, the controversial ideology of RSS that they see 'India having one identity'. He said, in soft words, whoever is an Indian by nature is a Hindu. But, his concentration was on presenting a hope in the hopeless situation of BJP, the political arm of his 'Pariwar'.

The ongoing war for power between the BJP leaders has exposed their claws and teeth. In this internal power struggle, blood is on everybody and everywhere. In this jungle war, the beloved lion is sick and retired at Krishna Menon Marg. The ambitious tiger is wounded by the election defeat, but has refused to retire. A wily fox as the party head is smiling and maneuvering at every step.


Image: RSS volunteers take their oath
Photographs: Reuters
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The situation is pathetic because, these days, within the BJP the mention of ideology is a joke and discipline has become alien to their leaders. The war is between Rajnath Singh and Advani; Arun Jaitley versus Rajnath. Also, Murali Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Arun Shourie were against Arun Jaitley because they allege that without fighting the election and without going through rough and tumble of election, he is getting cream assignments and postings.

These disgruntled leaders argue that Advani made him the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha in spite of his total failure in management of the election campaign. His appointment has fueled the internal war. The tussle intensified also because Rajnath Singh's term as party president is ending in November.

In short, all leaders in the party headquarters have become absolutely incompatible to work as a team. In view of the fact that both Rajnath and Advani have lost credibility inside the party forum it made sense that Bhagwat came on the centrestage for a while to address the media, exploit the technology to reach out not only to RSS-minded workers but also BJP voters, cadres and workers.


Image: Advani attends a party meeting in Ahmedabad
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
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After a long time, BJP workers must have felt that somebody is talking sense and he is trying to instill hope.

Bhagwat knows that the party is melting and he has to do something. But he said it differently. He said, recently when he was travelling in Uttar Pradesh, near a village, he met a BJP worker who came to him and said: 'Please save the BJP.'

Bhagwat said the worker had tears in his eyes, which convinced him that even if BJP goes down it would rise from ashes.

It seems that Advani will have the choice of time to retreat, especially since Bhagwat reminded journalists that RSS leaders were much younger to him. Also, now it is clear that Jaswant's expulsion and Sudheendra Kulkarni's exit is fitting into the agenda on the negotiating table of RSS-BJP.


Image: BJP supporters hold up the party's flag
Photographs: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters
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Shekhar Iyer, senior journalist and associate editor of Hindustan Times, says: "Whatever the RSS may say, their plan has started rolling. Behind the scene schedule has been worked out. Bhagwat himself said that Rajnath met him on Thursday night. He is working it out as discussed in the Chintan Baithak."

Only in October or November will major moves be made to further mould the BJP, which was founded in 1980. After Atal Behari Vajpayee's retirement, the BJP has failed to impress as an Opposition party.  Now, it is fighting a battle for survival due to the devastation brought about by its power-hungry leaders. The current infighting has defeated efforts of Vajpayee and Advani to keep the BJP at a safe distance from the RSS.

Today, Bhagwat's denial of any influence on the BJP was the most unbelievable part of his media interaction. But, his choice of Hindi words, his unruffled demeanour convinced many that his influence from Advani to Shourie may work to save the party from going down the drain.

At the moment, Bhagwat has emerged as BJP's saviour. It will take a long time to judge if it was for the BJP's good or not to surrender it's own space. In eye of onlookers, the RSS has emerged stronger in its role as negotiator of the losers.


Image: An activist from VHP, a Hindu hardline group, shouts slogans during an election awareness campaign
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
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