Millennium Post

Saffronites’ bane, a boon for Congress

The last two nominees of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president’s post – Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari – have proved disastrous for the party, with Gadkari’s tenure being even more ill-starred than that of his predecessor. If Rajnath Singh’s final act as party chief was the expulsion of Jaswant Singh for his laudatory book on Jinnah – the writer subsequently found his way back into the party – Gadkari’s may well be his own ignominious exit. Given the groundswell of opposition inside the party to his continued presence at the helm with Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha joining the chorus for his removal, it may not be possible for either the RSS or the BJP to safeguard his position for long.

The unedifying episode is a lesson, however, for the Nagpur patriarchs. Their self-belief about a deep understanding of the social and political scene cannot but be dented if Gadkari has to leave under a cloud. The first thing they will have to consider is why their selections went wrong. The reason, however, is clear to neutral observers. It relates to their persistent efforts to control the BJP. As long as a leader with a wide popular appeal like Atal Behari Vajpayee was in charge, the RSS found it difficult to enforce its writ on the party.

Even if it did succeed in persuading Vajpayee, as prime minister, not to give the finance minister’s post to Jaswant Singh in 1999, its success rate in influencing the party and its government of the time was low.

The most notable failure of the RSS was its failure to make any headway in the matter of constructing the Ram temple although the government did peer under the demolished mosque with the help of Japanese technology to detect signs of an ancient temple. But, there was no further progress because the BJP was voted out of power in 2004.

Since the RSS was dissatisfied with the reluctance shown by Vajpayee and L K Advani to follow its diktats, it grabbed the opportunity provided by the latter’s laudatory references to Jinnah during a visit to Pakistan in 2005 – he was probably trying to emulate Vajpayee’s moderation – to oust him from the party president’s post and appoint Rajnath Singh. This was the first miscalculation of the patriarchs. They apparently thought that with a provincial like him – as Jaswant Singh was to call him – at the top, the RSS will have the final say in the BJP’s affairs, its longstanding wish.

The same intention also guided the paterfamilias when they chose another provincial, Gadkari, to replace Rajnath Singh. In fact, the RSS even clarified at the time of the change that it purposefully kept out Delhi-based leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and others since their more nuanced interpretation of national events did not always tally with that of the RSS. In contrast, small town apparatchiki like Rajnath Singh and Gadkari were more pliable because of their limited outlook and dependence on the RSS for survival in office. As long as Gadkari hit the headlines with his gaffes about Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh being canine followers of Sonia Gandhi, or Afzal Guru being the government’s son-in-law, or Swami Vivekananda’s IQ being the same as Dawood Ibrahim’s, the BJP chief was in no danger.

The Sangh parivar has long been known for such inanities, like cow’s urine being a cure for all ailments and cow dung providing a protective cover against radiation from nuclear explosions. But, the charges of corruption against Gadkari have not been easy to brush off. The RSS and the BJP were not too perturbed about B S Yeddyurappa’s record of scams for he was no more than a chief minister when the Karnataka Lokayukta, Santosh Hegde, found him guilty on several counts.

But, the same casual attitude could not be adopted when it came to the party president, especially when the BJP’s primary focus was on the Congress’s alleged corruption.

While Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and others are apparently thinking of brazening their way out of the controversy, Ram and Mahesh Jethmalani and now Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha seem to believe that the ultimate winner in that eventuality will be the Congress. In a way, however, it is a Hobson’s choice for the saffronites.

If Gadkari is dumped, his culpability will be substantiated, thereby handing over a major victory on a platter to the Congress, which will claim that while it had removed its supposedly guilty members on its own – Suresh Kalmadi, Ashok Chavan and even Shashi Tharoor for a time – the BJP had to be forced to act against Gadkari against its will. On the other hand, persisting with a tainted chief will continue to weaken the BJP’s case against the Congress.

Considering that RSS ideologue M G Vaidya believes that Narendra Modi is behind the campaign against Gadkari, it is obvious that the lines in the saffron parivar are fatefully crossed. It is a scenario that will bring a smile to the faces of Congressmen even in these uncertain times for the party. [IPA]
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