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RSS's dilemma: To oust Gadkari without losing credibility

By Sheela Bhatt
November 07, 2012 15:07 IST
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Nitin GadkariWhile it is almost certain that Gadkari won't get a second term as BJP president, the RSS wants to ease him out without diminishing its own clout within the saffron pariwar. Sheela Bhatt analyses the situation.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is groping in the dark to find a perfect strategy to not-get-egg-on-its-face for selecting Nitin Gadkari to head the sangh parivar's political organ in 2009.

The way Gadkari's public career as the Bharatiya Janata Party president has unfolded in New Delhi tells us more about the RSS's political immaturity than Gadkari's ungracious fall. Nobody is blaming Gadkari for his mediocre construct of quotes and what all has happened during his tenure. In retrospect it has proven that it was an error of judgment by the RSS to give the man space under the national sky.

Now, how can the RSS reverse the decision without diminishing its stature among its cadre? It's a tall order where few faithfuls are coming forward to help.

Ideologues like S Gurumurthy are going to ridiculous lengths by offering laughable explanations for the alleged malpractices of Gadkari's companies. The chela has let down the guru and the latter is fighting a battle to retain its credibility.

It was the RSS who autocratically imposed Gadkari on the BJP in a much-published event in 2009.

It was the RSS's powerful leader Suresh Soni who manipulated behind the scenes to help his protégé from Nagpur get a break in New Delhi, that most RSS workers cannot even dream of. When Gadkari arrived in the national capital, the media was lenient with him because he was coming from middle India. Even scheming leaders at the BJP headquarters on Ashok Road gave him some space.  

But Gadkari failed to deliver. 

Now as ace political commentator Swapan Dasgupta says repeatedly on television that Gadkari has become 'damaged goods'. The RSS wants a way out to save the situation without any dilution of its authority and control over the internal affairs of the BJP.

All that sound and fury that has happened since Ram Jethamalani's diatribe at his press conference is in nutshell the war that is being fought on two fronts.

One war is within the RSS's pro-Gadkari and anti-Gadkari factions and another war can be named as 'Jinnah-II'. In 2005, when L K Advani went to Pakistan and praised M A Jinnah for his dream of a secular Pakistan he lost the support of his RSS family back home. RSS gave him an ultimatum to retract on his views on Jinnah's place in Indian history. Advani was aiming high to take the BJP to next level by making it a centrist party to take on the Congress at its own game.

The RSS ruthlessly removed him from the post of president at a fixed date during the BJP's Chennai conclave. Since then Advani is playing the 'freedom card' to free the BJP from clutches of the RSS without any success.

After the multi-crore scam of Gadkari's Purti group of companies came out, Advani and Sushma Swaraj supported Gadkari with a skewed logic. Advani's statement was lesson in opportunism in Indian politics when he said, "it needs to be noted" that the allegations against Gadkari were "about standards of business and not misuse of power and corruption."

Initially, Advani-Sushma supported Gadkari because they wanted time to ensure that control of BJP's affairs remains within the BJP and also in their hands. They didn't want the Narendra Modi group to rush in too soon in the space created by Gadkari's unceremonious exit, if at all it takes place soon.

Jethamalani, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha are helping the Advani gameplan while Modi, Arun Jaitley and others are waiting to see the result.

It goes without saying that by any logic Gadkari cannot get a second term as BJP president. But the RSS wants to ease him out, as said above, without diminishing its own clout within saffron pariwar.

Second, more importantly the RSS would replace Gadkari with his clone -- meaning a president who should be wearing loyalty to RSS on his sleeve.

Another main concern of the RSS is to see that the new president does not promote a personality cult that will diminish the parivar.

The Advani group is directly pitted against the RSS. Who should be the next president of the BJP, if and when, Gadkari goes? This question is important for even the non-BJP political class. The next president of BJP will play a crucial role in national politics. 

For the RSS it is not the electoral battle of 2014 or the coming session of Parliament that is important, their focus will be on how to ensure that Gadkari's fall is not branded as failure of the RSS's decision-making machinery.

Suresh Soni (the power behind Gadkari) and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and the genuinely neutral power of the safforn family will sit down and take stock of the situation. Till then the BJP and the excited media will have to wait and watch.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
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