Cleaning out the Augean Stables

No Schism (From left) Jaswant Singh, LK Advani and Rajnath Singh in happier times
No Schism (From left) Jaswant Singh, LK Advani and Rajnath Singh in happier times
Photos: Shailendra Pandey

But, says the RSS leader, the issue is much larger than whether Singh needed to be thrown out of the party. “The key issue is: Are Advani and Rajnath Singh today capable of holding the party together?” he asks. “The answer is no. Nobody has any clue what is happening inside the party. The only way out now is for Advani in particular to make way for new leadership. This will have to be done. This will be done,” the RSS leader said.
In fact, he points to Bhagwat’s blunt statement during the TV interview: that there are a number of second-generation leaders who can easily be installed into leadership positions. “It is a universal rule that the young generation must replace the old generation,” Bhagwat had said in the interview. “When, where and how [the change is effected], they [the BJP] will have to decide.”

Singh’s attempts at destabilising the BJP Chief Minister of Rajasthan were resented by the RSS

Ironically, the BJP’s failure to win back power in this year’s Lok Sabha elections has strengthened Bhagwat, who is 22 years Advani’s junior. Although Bhagwat became its chief only in April 2009, he has virtually headed the RSS for a decade as its general secretary. In that position, he was the immediate deputy of KS Sudarshan, who retired as RSS chief in April after appointing him as his successor. With Sudarshan in unstable health, Bhagwat had been running the day-today operations of the RSS for many years.
While traditionally RSS chiefs – sarsanghchalaks, as they are known – always held an unquestionable control over the BJP’s political leadership, Bhagwat came to run the RSS at a time when Advani was already a BJP veteran and India’s powerful home minister and soon became deputy prime minister. Thus, Bhagwat and the RSS had to necessarily take the backseat.
HOWEVER, BHAGWAT got his chance to flex his muscle for the first time when he fully backed his former boss Sudarshan after Advani praised Jinnah during a visit to Pakistan in 2005. While Advani initially tried to get out of the controversy unscathed, the Sudarshan-Bhagwat duo eventually forced Advani to quit as the BJP president, considerably weakening Advani’s clout within the party.

‘The key issue is: are Advani and Rajnath Singh today capable of holding the party together? No’

In fact, this year, Bhagwat had kept the RSS away from the day-to-day management of the BJP’s election plan, unlike during the previous elections. When BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley angrily kept away from election planning meetings last March, demanding that his rival leader Sudhanshu Mittal be taken off election management in the North-East, the RSS refused to intervene in the dispute and asked the party to resolve it internally.
Now, however, the RSS is keen to effect change in the BJP leadership, perhaps over the next six months. “There are at least ten leaders to choose from,” the RSS functionary told TEHELKA. Of course, Advani and Rajnath Singh have one chance in that period to prove themselves – the upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, where the ruling Congress-NCP coalition is up against a ten-year incumbency.