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A-team out, Sangh sizes up seven
Not in Favour

New Delhi, July 12: Atal Bihari Vajpayee is not the only one out of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s good books. So is L.K. Advani.

The Sangh was ballistic on the BJP’s “Hindutva” face at a high-level meeting in Raipur over the weekend. It attacked the former deputy Prime Minister for not protecting the four RSS pracharaks who were kidnapped and killed by an insurgent group four years ago in Tripura.

Asked why the RSS had raked up an incident that happened years ago, sources said it was a manifestation of the churning in the parivar on who was the “ideal” person to lead the BJP at this juncture. The RSS, the sources added, “clearly” thinks that neither Vajpayee nor Advani would fit the bill at a time when the BJP is out of power and shows no sign of reconciling to its “shock defeat”.

The RSS is reportedly miffed with the BJP for transforming its first post-election national executive in Mumbai into a three-day jamboree in a seven-star hotel and allowing the controversy over Narendra Modi’s continuation as Gujarat chief minister to take precedence over introspection and analysis.

Sources said Advani’s call for a return to Hindutva and a patch-up with the Sangh did “not go down well” with the RSS leaders because “for the six years the NDA ruled, he did little or nothing each time Vajpayee sidelined us and the VHP. Now that the BJP is down and out, he has discovered us”.

So who is the leader the RSS would choose given the fact that even Vajpayee has acknowledged its veto power vis-à-vis the BJP' The sources said there was no single person it had zeroed in on because what was happening now was “stock-taking” of the plus and minus points of a short list of names it has drawn up. They are:

M. Venkaiah Naidu: A cadre motivator but little else. Lacks gravitas and his penchant for one-liners has become a joke.

 

Pramod Mahajan: The least favoured after the Mumbai show he organised. The RSS’ fulmination at the BJP’s “RSS culture” at its Raipur meet was construed as a barb at Mahajan. However, if the BJP wins in Maharashtra, he might find favour with the Sangh. The sources conceded that his skill at realpolitik was “unmatched” in the BJP.

Murli Manohar Joshi: The RSS’ ideological instinct goes all out for him as Vajpayee’s “natural” successor. He is a Brahmin from Uttar Pradesh. His biggest minus, the sources said, is he lacks the former Prime Minister’s charisma and all-round appeal. “Only a section of intellectuals like Joshi,” the sources said.

Narendra Modi: Top of the pops despite his alleged arrogance and inability to be a team leader. Biggest asset' “He belongs to a backward caste but has a pan-Hindu appeal,” sources said.

 

Kalyan Singh: Once the RSS’ darling because he had the same attributes as Modi. Fell out of favour after he left the BJP. May have regained it had he delivered Uttar Pradesh.

 

Sushma Swaraj: Considered a “mascot” in the Vajpayee mould because of her oratory and a image as an “ideal” Hindu woman. Lack of interest in the organisation a minus.

 

Arun Jaitley: If the RSS is forced to dump hardline Hindutva and find an “acceptable” face for coalition politics, Jaitley may be the answer as Vajpayee was in 1995 when Advani was forced to take the back seat.

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