The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flags fly aloof in Sangh family feud

Jammu, Sept. 22: The mukhiya of the parivar, the RSS, is content that it proved what it set out to, ideologically and politically. But the RSS’ progeny, the BJP, is worried that the zeal to score brownie points may cost it precious seats in Jammu.

That sums up the RSS-BJP equation in this region.

At the core of the soured relations was the RSS blueprint of Jammu and Kashmir’s three-way division which envisaged statehood to Jammu and Union territory status to Leh and Ladakh.

When the BJP remained cool, the RSS created a new front called the Jammu State Morcha to propagate its idea in the elections. The BJP scrambled to strike an alliance with the morcha to pre-empt a split of the “Hindu” votebank, but it was far from perfect.

Not only were the BJP and the morcha pitted against one another in two seats, Jammu (East) and Gandhinagar, in none of the other 11—where they have a declared alliance—was there a sign of bonhomie. There was no joint campaign, no common posters, and even the flags — the BJP’s saffron and green and the morcha’s yellow — flew aloof. Worse, the RSS backed the morcha over the BJP.

Local BJP leaders fear that in the end the RSS may throw its lot with the Congress if it was convinced the morcha was not capable of trouncing the National Conference.

Upendra Bhatt, the state BJP secretary, said: “The RSS’ main goal is to see the Conference is wiped out of Jammu. The morcha is fighting an election for the first time. It has not been allotted a proper symbol. In some seats, it is a plane, in others, it is a pair of scissors or a train.

“Despite the ground support for a separate Jammu state, the morcha may be electorally ineffective. If the RSS feels the Congress is best poised to defeat the Conference, its cadre may work for its candidates. It happened in 1984, what is to prevent it from happening again'”

The BJP general secretary in charge of the state, Rajnath Singh, and RSS leader Indresh Kumar are trying for a last-minute patch-up.

As soon as Singh landed in Jammu today, ostensibly to campaign, he phoned Kumar. But Kumar told this correspondent: “It is too late.”

His formula involved a quid pro quo by which the BJP’s Jammu (East) and the morcha’s Gandhinagar candidates would withdraw. But with polling day after tomorrow, neither was reportedly willing, come what may.

“The RSS has made some points through the morcha. So far Jammu and Kashmir’s election agenda was set either by Pakistan or the international community. For the first time, attention was focused on an internal problem that did not involve international or bilateral intervention,” Kumar said.

Admitting that the morcha was not “keen to be part of any government”, Kumar said the other points the RSS made were to “dispel the belief” that it was anti-Muslim. The Sangh, he said, advocated the creation of a separate Muslim-majority Kashmir state, courtesy its trifurcation concept, and “encouraging” separatists in Pakistan to take up similar demands.

“The people of Baluchistan, Sind, Pakhtoon and Baltistan will be emboldened to fight for separate provinces, if Jammu and Kashmir is divided,” Kumar said.

Notwithstanding the convoluted logic of the RSS’ case, it made the BJP panicky enough to start talking of a Jammu state in the last leg of its campaign. Even the BJP-backed Akali Dal candidate from Gandhinagar, Charanjit Singh Khalsa parroted the line.

His campaign manager J.R. Gupta said: “We support Jammu statehood. It’s always better to pitch one’s demand high because if we don’t get statehood, at least the Centre can give us a regional council.”

Central minister Sushma Swaraj, too, stressed at her meetings that while the RSS/morcha and the BJP were unanimous on their “diagnosis of the disease”, only the line of treatment differed. “The BJP offered a simple dose and the RSS a concentrated dose,” Sushma had said.

Another BJP campaigner, Uttar Pradesh MP Swami Chinmayanand, spoke the morcha’s language, claiming smaller states progressed faster.

On the ground, the Jammu state plank apparently made little impact. Jagdish Jandial, a shopkeeper in the city west constituency, where the BJP supported a morcha candidate, said Hindus were disillusioned with both and could root for the Congress.

“The morcha is the BJP in another garb and, like the BJP, it speaks in different voices. Sometimes it says jai Bharat, other times jai Jammu and jai Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

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