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March 9, 2000
Sudarshan front-runner for RSS top post
Amberish K Diwanji in Nagpur
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is all set to see a change of guard.
At the Pratinidhi Sabha, or the general assembly, scheduled between March 10 and 12 at the organisation's headquarters in Nagpur, Sarsanghchalak Rajendra Thakur, popularly known as Rajju Bhaiyya, is likely to hand over charge to K C Sudarshan.
K C Sudarshan is currently one of three sahsarkaryavahs (joint general secretaries). The other two sahsarkaryavahs are Suresh Ketkar and Madandas Devi.
Also expected to step down is the present sarkaryavah (general secretary) H V Seshadri.
Both Rajju Bhaiyya and Seshadri have not been keeping well for the past several months and have expressed their desire to quit.
The big question now is who will succeed Seshadri as sarkaryavah, a pivotal position in the RSS hierarchy.
While the sarsanghchalak's is the top post in the RSS, he is more of a constitutional authority. The day-to-day working of the organisation, including the interactions with the media, are the sarkaryavah's responsibility.
It is still not clear who will replace Sudarshan once he moves up.
RSS is the mother organisation of several outfits and some of them like the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sabha have a influential voice in Indian politics.
The organisation has so far denied that Rajju Bhaiyya is stepping down."Believe me," said a senior RSS functionary in Nagpur on Thursday, "no such changes will take place."
However, a local newspaper quoted highly placed RSS sources saying that changes would occur once the Pratinidhi Sabha gets under way on Friday.
RSS watchers too confirmed that changes were imminent, but remained unclear on who would succeed whom.
They said stepping into Seshadri's shoes would be either Suresh Ketkar or Mohan Bhagwat - the akhil Bharat prachar pramukh. It is believed Madandas Devi would replace Sudarshan as the coordinator of the allied organisations.
The RSS leadership is one of India's most exclusive clubs. The top leader in this organisation is never elected but nominated by his predecessor. The first sarsanghchalak, Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, who founded RSS, nominated M S 'Guruji' Golwalkar to succeed him upon his death. Golwalkar in turn handed over the reins to Balasaheb Deoras.
It was Deoras who broke the tradition of succession only after the death of the incumbent sarsanghchalak by nominating Rajju Bhayya during his own lifetime.
Rajju Bhaiyya is now seeking to follow Deoras's precedent by nominating his successor in his lifetime.
However, RSS-watchers insist that despite his advanced years, Sudarshan is likely to succeed Rajju Bhaiyya.
"The sarsanghchalak is the RSS's friend, philosopher and guide. He is not involved in the day-to-day running of the orgnisation, which is the responsibility of the karyavahs and sahkaryavahs," said a RSS functionary.
Sources said there is an intense struggle within the RSS between the Maharashtrian and non-Maharashtrian lobbies.
The first three RSS sarsanghchalaks were all Maharashtrian Brahmins. Sources said Maharastrian lobby was none-too-pleased at having lost its hold on the organisation.
Rajju Bhaiyya is a north Indian non-Brahmin, while H V Seshadri and K C Sudarshan are South Indian Brahmins.
It is this Maharashtrian lobby that is now pushing to have Maharashtrians once more occupy key slots. Ketkar and Bhagwat are both Maharashtrians, while Madandas Devi, though a Gujarati, has been based in Nagpur for most of his life and is considered part of the Maharashtrian lobby.
In fact, some even believe that the Maharashtrian lobby is aiming to push Bhagwat's candidature for the sarsanghchalak's post and have Sudarshan nominated as the sarkaryavah.
However, the pro-Sudarshan lobby sees merit in having a South Indian as the sarsanghchalak. They argue that this will not only lend the RSS a pan-Indian flavour, but will also help RSS in its push to capture the South.
One factor that, however, goes decidedly against Sudarshan is his reputation as a tough talker. Sudarshan had in the recent past not minced words while criticising the RSS's political outfit -- the Bharatiya Janata Party -- which heads the ruling National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre.
Sudarshan had also publicly criticised the BJP for backing the Insurance Bill.
In contrast, Bhagwat is a quiet person who prefers to influence rather than confront the BJP. This has made him popular with Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, himself a former RSS member.
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