RSS wary of Modi, so Gadkari hangs on – but how long?

Nagpur-foisted course correction in BJP continues thanks to a meek leadership


Ajay Singh | November 7, 2012

Narendra Modi and Nitin Gadkari
Narendra Modi and Nitin Gadkari

If BJP president Nitin Gadkari comes to Gujarat for the election campaign, he would refocus the political debate on fugitive criminal Dawood Ibrahim. Nothing would be so embarrassing for chief minister Narendra Modi as Gadkari's indiscretion, since Modi’s targets for attack are often on the other side of the border, for example, “miyan Musharraf”.

For Modi, Gadkari has not only abysmally lowered the scale but also derailed his carefully cultivated politics on the imagery of Swami Vivekanand as a nationalist icon for the youth. In such circumstances, Gadkari would certainly be less than welcome in Gujarat as the campaign picks up in the state ahead of December 13/17 elections. And if insiders are to be believed, he has been told to stay away from the campaign.

How is it that the head of the BJP is perceived to be its biggest liability in Gujarat? This question is more a reflection on the state of affairs within the party and the RSS than Gadkari as an individual. Indications are that Gadkari's continuation as the party head is increasingly untenable. The RSS leadership would not hesitate to drop Gadkari should they get yet another suitable Gadkari as replacement. In effect, Gadkari is not an individual but a phenomenon that has taken the BJP leadership in its grip with the support of the party's ideological fountainhead, the RSS.

On a related note, also read:
Swami vs Dawood: Of Gadkari, IQ and a pre-teen debate
Gadkari betrays Parivar's shallow intellect, exit certain

Perhaps the manner in which the RSS has been dictating the BJP politics and selecting its office-bearers has set in a deep-seated malaise which is difficult to purge by removal of just one Gadkari. On the other hand, Gadkari's selection as the BJP chief was the culmination of a series of meek surrenders by the BJP leadership to the RSS’s bullying since 2006. The decision of the BJP core group to come out in support of Gadkari on Tuesday despite overwhelming odds staked against him is yet another instance of the timid and self-serving approach of the party's top echelons.

Apparently there is enough evidence to suggest that the party's top leadership is vertically divided on the issue of Gadkari. Modi who emerged as the most powerful man in the BJP is believed to have let his displeasure over Gadkari's continuation known. Though Modi is discreet, he is fully supported by leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley. The silence assumed by an otherwise loquacious Jaitley is more eloquent than his action on the issue. By all indications, those ranged against Gadkari seem to be showing an uncanny timidity which characterise the behaviour of the party leaders over the past six years.

Their obvious fear stems from the stranglehold of the RSS which seems to be micro-managing the BJP's affairs. And except for the Gujarat chief minister who has never compromised his autonomy and independence, the rest of the BJP leadership singularly lacks confidence of mass leadership. For critical mass support, this leadership still banks on the RSS's cadre strength which is often extolled in mythical proportions. This seems to be the reason why the party leadership conducts itself in a rather meek manner when it comes to dealing with the RSS. The fact that the RSS has found micro-managing the BJP more attractive than its avowed task of building a Hindu society has further complicated matters for the party's political leadership.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has more often than not candidly acknowledged, albeit privately, that his organisation would not let the BJP leadership deviate from the "ideological path". Implicit in this assertion is that the BJP leadership would have to surrender its autonomy which it enjoyed till Vajpayee-Advani duo dominated the scene. In this context, the ignominious exit of Advani as BJP president after his remarks on Jinnah in Pakistan was a perestroika (restructuring) moment for the RSS to correct the course of a ‘deviant’ BJP leadership. With the timid leadership of the second generation surrendering its autonomy to Nagpur, the emergence of the Gadkaris and a set of weak BJP leaders at the national and regional levels became a logical corollary.

Things would have been much easier for the RSS leadership if they were to deal only with the party's national leadership. But its trouble escalates as Modi has been gaining a larger than life persona independent of the RSS. Given Modi's image of a fiercely autonomous leader that borders on authoritarianism, the RSS is wary of allowing him to take the centre-stage and control the party. Modi's ascendancy would mean the undoing of the RSS-sponsored restructuring and the course correction which it had initiated six years ago. Modi's carefully cultivated image of a decisive and bold political leader stands in sharp contrast to the collective image of the party leadership.

In this context, those closing the ranks behind Gadkari seem guided by the fear of losing their turf if the Gadkari phenomenon is jettisoned. Hence the search for another Gadkari will continue until the real Gadkari survives. But there is no doubt that the Gujarat election would be the countdown for a major transition within the saffron fold.




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