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March 10, 2000
'While time hardens cement, at this age, it does not heal bones'
Amberish K Diwanji
Kuppahalli Sitaramayya Sudarshan today became the fifth sarsanghachalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
At the RSS Pratinidhi Sabha (general assembly) that began today in Nagpur, Dr Rajendra Thakur made a brief announcement that due to his ill-health he was incapable of discharging his duties and was therefore handing over charge to sahsarkaryavah (joint general secretary) Sudarshan. The new sarsanghchalak turns 69 on June 18.
Thakur, addressing the 1000-strong gathering of prant pracharaks (message spreaders) who had arrived from all over India for the session, said the natural choice for his successor should have been H V Seshadri, currently the sarkaryavah (general secretary). However, Thakur said that Seshadri had refused to take the post on grounds of ill-health. So far, the sarkaryavah has always taken over as sarsanghachalak.
Under the circumstances, said Thakur, popularly called Rajju Bhayya in the RSS, the most suitable person for the post was K S Sudarshan (whose initials in the Devanagari script translate into K C Sudarshan).
Immediately after an RSS member read out Thakur's speech, Sudarshan walked up to the podium where Seshadri and Thakur were seated. Both of whom rose to receive him. Then, Thakur wrapped a shawl round Sudarshan, signifying that Sudarshan was henceforth the sarsanghachalak (it loosely translates as 'chief motivator').
While no other appointments were announced today, it is now widely anticipated that Seshadri too will step down tomorrow and pracharak pramukh (chief of the messengers) Mohan Bhagwat will take over the reins from him. The sarkaryavah is considered the most influential job within the RSS as the sarkaryavah deals with the day-to-day operations of the RSS, presides over meetings and make key appointments.
By contrast, the sarsanghchalak is seen as friend and guide, above the day-to-day functioning. If Bhagwat, who is relatively young at 62, takes over from Seshadri, he will be in line to succeed Sudarshan.
Other changes too are expected. Madandas Devi will take over from Sudarshan as chief co-ordinator of the various organisations affiliated to the RSS, an important post, given the major role that the various affiliated organisations play in Indian politics and society today.
The RSS is the controlling unit of a number of organisations, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (politics), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (religio-cultural), Swadeshi Jagran Manch (economics), Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (trade unions) etc.
That Sudarshan would take over was expected, given Thakur's ill-health. Not only does Thakur suffer from diabetes, but his health had deteriorated ever since he suffered a fracture two years ago, forcing him to miss the Pratinidhi Sabha held last year in Lucknow.
Speculation had been rife that Thakur had made up his mind to hand over charge, and had first offered the post to Seshadri. But the latter refused it.
Thakur was not even able to complete his speech, a point he emphasised to bring home the fact that it was in the interests of the party that he stepped down.
Thakur said he was keen to step down last year itself but that the RSS leaders had prevailed upon him not to do so then, saying his health could improve.
"But while time hardens cement, at this age, time does not heal bones, and for that reason I am unable to move. I can't even talk for more than five minutes at a time," he said.
Thakur told his audience that any organisation that did not have an effective leadership was bound to suffer, and it was in keeping the interests of the RSS in mind that he had decided to step down.
"I will always be available for advice and guidance, but a man who is unable to meet his workers or discuss issues with them should not be the leader," he said.
In his acceptance speech, Sudarshan said he was initially hesitant to take up the responsibility, especially since Thakur was still alive and since Seshadri was his senior. However, he said, he had later deferred to their wishes that he should lead the RSS, and had therefore accepted the responsibility. "I will always have Rajju Bhayya to turn to, besides the bonus of having Seshadri also to guide me," he said.
After his speech, Sudarshan went around the huge hall accepting congratulations from the various RSS members gathered there. He, however, refused to meet the press or comment on any issue, saying he would do that at the press briefing in a day or two.
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