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Second citizens of BJP

The BJP and the RSS are two faces of the same coin. Officially, the RSS claims it is nothing to do with the BJP, but it is obvious that it is difficult to survive politically within the BJP if one has not completely surrendered to the RSS. Non-RSS politicians in the BJP are seldom consulted on core issues of polity. There is a zero tolerance atmosphere against the RSS within the BJP. With such a narrow approach, how long will non-RSS politicians continue to accept the BJP as a political identity without any say in decision-making?

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JITENDRA Gaur has discontent written all over his face. Despite having put in blood and sweat for 23 years into the Delhi BJP and knowing almost every resident of his municipality ward Malviya Nagar, he has not quite made it.

Gaur (43) is merely a Convener of Urban Villages when many of his contemporaries have risen to be councilors, legislators and top office bearers in the Delhi BJP. He blames the stagnation in his political career on not being a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) man.

Gaur, a college dropout, has been twice unlucky in getting the nomination for Malviya Nagar Ward (number 161). “I was shortlisted for the Councillor’s ticket in 2007 and 2012. Since I knew every party worker in Malviya Nagar and four villages—Adhchini, Begumpur, Jia Sarai and Kalu Sarai—I was the most eligible candidate among the aspirants. But my non-RSS background became a hurdle. Party mein RSS ka chalan hai (RSS holds sway in the party). I was told, ‘you are not a RSS worker’ and denied nomination,” he claims. BJP Councillor in 2007 Inderjit Verma, according to him, was groomed in the RSS.

Yashwant-Sinha
Yashwant Sinha (far left) and Jaswant Singh (left) are two prominent non-RSS men in the BJP. Both of them are seen with suspicion by the RSS, which considers them anti-Swadeshi

Gaur’s wife Yogita feels he has wasted over two decades in the party and he quite agrees with her. The hibernation has frustrated his family. Gaur’s father, Om Prakash, who was an office bearer in IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Employees Union and, more importantly, part of the Sangh Parivar, passed away in 2002. He wishes the latter was alive and could push his case better with the party bosses, many of whom, including Harshvardhan and Jagdish Mukhi, have emerged out of the Sangh bodies—shakhas, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Sewa Bharati, Vidya Bharati, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh, Pradhyapak Milan, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, etc.

Gaur’s contemporary and competitor, current Malviya Nagar Councillor Satish Upadhyay, is tipped to head South Delhi Municipal Corporation. But Gaur looks resigned to working in the lower rungs of the party for the rest of his life. “RSS is a major factor for promotion in the BJP. It plays a huge role. I have no hope left,” he signs off.

Sangh skills add value
GAUR is not alone who has had a stunted growth due to the RSS factor. Even the new aspirants are aware of the Sangh’s overarching influence on the BJP. BJP ticket hopeful from Gurgaon Assembly Constituency and former Sarpanch of Chakkarpur Village, Anil Yadav, refers to this when he says it is definitely a plus to have the RSS pedigree in the BJP. Yadav, whose wife Sunita is a Councillor in Gurgaon Municipal Corporation, terms RSS background as an extra qualification. “It’s better if you are from the RSS. EK degree (RSS grooming) faltu ho to better rehta hai (it’s better to have an extra degree). You get ideologically trained and are better equipped to understand the BJP brand of politics,” Yadav claims.

Yadav cites the example of the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitely, to buttress his argument. Jaitely, a former ABVP office bearer, according to him, may not be a mass leader but is well versed about the Sangh’s views on national issues. Interestingly, the entire BJP Parliamentary Board (barring Sushma Swaraj), cut teeth in the Sangh Parivar.

Similarly, a majority of the BJP’s 77-member National Executive joined the party via the RSS route. The rest belongs either to the glamour world (Hema Malini, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna, Kiron Kher), sports (Navjot Singh Sidhu, Chetan Chauhan) or are symbolic representatives of minorities (Najma Heptullah, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi). Besides Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishan Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Venkiah Naidu, Arun Jaitely, Nitin Gadkari, Gopinath Munde, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Kalraj Mishra, Vinay Katiyar, Vinay Sahastrabuddhe and Yogi Adityanath, the known RSS names, the executive gives space to Seshadri Chari and Tarun Vijay, former editors of Organizer and Panchjanya, respectively, mouthpieces of the RSS.

Ruling with an iron hand: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat during the Sang Sangam at Parade Ground, Jammu

Manisha Priyam, a political economist, concedes there is pre-eminence and control of the RSS over the BJP and this needs to change. Priyam advises the saffron party to involve more people from other walks of life.

RSS for pushing ‘PM’ Modi
SINCE the RSS was in the forefront of pushing for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s projection for Prime Ministership, BJP members with RSS lineage are working extra hard for the saffron party’s mission 272+. They definitely feel they have a larger stake in putting Modi in the PM’s chair.

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Shahnawaz-Hussain Shahnawaz Hussain (centre, above) and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (left) are the symbolic representatives of minorities in the BJP’s National Executive

Bharat Soni, head of Election Data Cell in Gujarat, and his 80-plus member team are compiling booth-level election data of the entire country. Soni, a former RSS hand, aims to store the data in software christened ATIT. “We already have data of Gujarat since 1968, data of Gujarat State Municipalities from 2002 to 2012 and data of four states—Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh—which went to polls recently. We’ve appointed one pointsman for every 50 voters. He will work on them,” Soni reveals. He admits it is easier for RSS-trained volunteers to adapt in the BJP.

Rakesh Goel, President of the Punjab IT Cell, who has designed a mobile app winbjp.in/m from where one can download Modi’s speeches, profile and pictures, etc, agrees with Soni. Goel, an RSS volunteer, is registering students from schools and colleges for mission 272+. According to Goel, almost all the dozen MLAs of the BJP and majority of party’s office bearers in Punjab, including State BJP President Kamal Sharma, are steeped in the RSS culture. Goel is greatly enthused by Facebook and Youtube pages, like Namo Bharat and Namo Modi, on BJP’s PM nominee.

The RSS workers in the BJP are also working overtime to build a secular image for Modi. Jaidev Rajwal, Convener of BJP’s IT Cell in Jammu & Kashmir, claims to have recruited 30 per cent Muslims in his team. Rajwal, who has been associated with the RSS since childhood, is sure that the BJP would win half of the six parliamentary seats from the border State.

There are umpteen examples of the Sangh Parivaar dictating a policy or choice to the party and also ensuring that forces resisting it towed its line

Sangh calls the shots
MORE than the numbers what is important is that the Sangh holds complete sway over the BJP and its claim that it is only a moral guardian of the saffron outfit, is patently false. There are umpteen examples of the Parivaar dictating a policy or choice to the party and also ensuring that forces resisting it towed its line. The Sangh hand was more than evident when Advani was brought around to agree to Narendra Modi’s projection for Prime Ministership. The RSS Pramukh (head) Mohan Bhagwat called up Advani in June last year before the latter came around on Modi’s name.

On October 23, 2013, when the BJP declared Harshvardhan, a former RSS man, as Chief Ministerial candidate of the party for Delhi, it carried the unmistakable stamp of Sangh headquarters. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the party’s Delhi incharge Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and others simply did the bidding of the RSS’ Delhi State propagandist (Prant Pracharak) Anil Kant, Delhi RSS Chief Kulbhushan Ahuja when they made the announcement. Apart from Kant and Ahuja, Mukesh Punyani, the unofficial link between the RSS and the Delhi BJP, pushed for Harshvardhan. The trio was reportedly cut up with the Delhi BJP Chief Vijay Goel, who had stopped consulting them on political matters.

Earlier this month, the RSS warned the BJP against taking the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lightly. BJP Chief Rajnath Singh, his predecessor Nitin Gadkari and BJP General Secretary in charge of Organisation, Ram Lal, reportedly participated in a two-day RSS conclave in Hyderabad. They were told to learn from AAP’s strategy and be more participatory.

Smriti-Irani
Smriti Irani represent the glamour world in the BJP

The war within
IT was dual membership issue which gave birth to the BJP in 1980, with the party declaring its commitment to ‘Gandhian Socialism’, much to the chagrin of the heads of the Parivar. The membership issue led to the withdrawal of support by Bharatiya Jan Sangh from Morarji Desai Government in the same year. Since then, a constant tug-of-war has been on between the parent and the child, with the latter time and again resisting and trying to get out of the stranglehold barring occasions when there has been convergence of views between the two. The convergence was manifested in Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 1990s and now in the projection of Narendra Modi for the top executive post of the country.

During the rule of the first BJP-led coalition, Vajpayee and Advani thwarted the Sangh hegemony and succeeded to an extent. The government and the Sangh had major differences of opinion over economic policies. Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an arm of the RSS, constantly agitated against the government’s liberalisation policy. Vajpayee retained and promoted Jaswant Singh, whom the Sangh considered anti-Swadeshi. When the Parivar honchos did not allow Singh’s inclusion in the Union Cabinet because the latter had lost an election, Vajpayee made him the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.

Singh has been RSS’ whipping boy ever since. In August 2009, he termed Mohammad Ali Jinnah ‘secular’ and was subsequently expelled from the BJP. Currently, he is a member of the BJP National Executive but maintains a low profile. The same goes for Yashwant Sinha, another prominent non-RSS man. Sinha quit the BJP in June 2009. Last year, he openly demanded resignation of Gadkari, RSS’ man-Friday, after the latter’s name figured in a controversy.

Heads I win, tails you lose
AS demonstrated by the projection of Narendra Modi despite Advani’s objections, declaration of Harshvardhan as Chief Ministerial candidate in Delhi, continuance of Nitin Gadkari in the highest decision-making bodies of the BJP and waning role of Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha, the RSS holds the party in tight leash. There is complete surrender and not even pretence of protest against the ownership.

Shatrughan Sinha
Shatrughan Sinha represent the glamour world in the BJP

The Sangh holds all the aces for the time being. In case Modi becomes the Prime Minister, it would hope to add some lustre to its shakhas, where the numbers are either on perpetual decline or have stagnated. It would hope to add to relevance of its ideology in modern India. “There are only three ideologies in India – Communism, Congress and the RSS,” Ashok Khandelkar, a full-time Pracharak and former President of District Panchayat in Jalgaon (Maharashtra), declares.

If Modi fails to make the cut, the failure will solely be his and the BJP’s. The Sangh can wash its hands off and repeat what Khandelkar adds as a rider, “The RSS is like Rajguru. It is a factory to make good human beings. It has nothing to do with power politics”.

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