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RSS keen to assert its hand in choice of new BJP leader - The Times of India

Bhaskar Roy ()
15 December 1996

Title : RSS keen to assert its hand in choice of new BJP leader
Author : Bhaskar Roy
Publication : The Times of India
Date : December 15, 1996

For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) it is clearly not
the best of times. Paradoxically the party which only a
few months ago touched a peak bagging the highest number
of parliamentary seats is now betraying signs of its
inability to cope with the consequences and implications
of this phenomenal growth.

When on Sunday the "wise old men" of the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) meet the pracharaks on deputation
to the BJP, the issue that is likely to top the agenda
will be the challenges and problems brought about by the
party's growth.

The RSS and BJP are both well aware that tremendous
growth of the saffron constituency cannot be accommodated
in the old ideological straitjacket. At the same time
the entrenched leadership is not prepared to allow others
- those not conforming to its stern disciplinarian code -
to wrest control of the party. In other words, the
saffron patriarchs are determined not to let another
Gujarat erupt, another Vaghela to successfully challenge
the party establishment.

The Sangh's pracharaks who hold key positions in the BJP,
could be an instrument of asserting control over the
party and for setting examples. "We are going to tell our
pracharaks to remain pracharaks and not to become politi-
cians," said a senior RSS leader succinctly about the
purpose of the meeting.

The RSS is emphatic in its belief that the impressive
growth of the BJP would mean nothing if the party de-
viates from the Sangh culture and values. The anxiety to
keep the party on the 'right track' explains the new
assertiveness of the RSS.

The RSS, therefore, has left no one in doubt that it
would like to see a man of its liking to take up the
reins of the BJP when Mr L. K. Advani's term as party
president is over in September-October. Though a number
of names are doing the rounds in the BJP circles for the
top job with enough justification for the suitability of
each, the list, Sangh sources aver, is going to he a
short one.

Both Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat a d
the party leader in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, Kalyan
Singh, have been mentioned in this connection. Highly-
placed sources, however, point out that since both lead-
ers are preoccupied in their respective states shifting
either of them to the party's national headquarters is
not feasible.

The search, therefore, could veer round to either veteran
RSS loyalist Sunder Singh Bhandari or former party presi-
dent Murli Manohar Joshi. Mr Bhandari, currently the
senior-most party vice-president, has been a pracharak
for fifty years now. He fits the Sangh ideal because of
his spartan lifestyle.

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