The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP groans under Sangh thumb

New Delhi, Feb. 23: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has tightened its grip on every level of decision-making in the BJP with a series of crucial appointments in the party.

Of the 35 new office-bearers, the appointments of as many as 11 are seen as directly guided by the Sangh.

Frustrated senior leaders, who do not wish to be quoted, are now questioning BJP president Rajnath Singh’s ability to resist Sangh pressure.

“Some of these appointments make absolutely no sense. What is Sahib Singh Verma doing in Himachal Pradesh' Why should Vinay Katiyar be put in charge of a state'” a party leader said.

“I personally think that in his eagerness to accommodate a lot of interests, mainly the Sangh’s, Rajnath has failed to give coherence and direction to his team.”

Bhai Girkar, who is in charge of Arunachal Pradesh, is a lightweight. The resurrection of Babu Lal Marandi, who had been out in the cold after he attacked L.K. Advani over his Jinnah remarks, has also surprised many.

The various social bodies and cells, too, now have a disproportionate presence of Sangh favourites, mainly from Maharashtra. They include Devdas Apte, president of the Scheduled Tribe Front, Gajendra Chauhan (cultural cell), Kirit Somaya (investors cell), Anand Pandit (commerce cell) and Poornima Advani (NGOs cell).

“It’s impossible to explain these appointments'. Sometimes the Sangh intervenes directly; but mostly, it is a nexus ' we now call it the Maharashtra gang ' that guides the new president,” a BJP leader said.

The Maharashtra gang is headed by Bal Apte. Besides being the Sangh point man in the party, he is close to Pramod Mahajan. The connection explains Mahajan getting charge of three states, besides retaining his home state, Maharashtra.

Arun Jaitley, too, has three states but there is a surprise addition of three joint-in-charge to assist him in each.

“What can we possibly do' The president doesn’t have the stature or inclination to deny anything that the Sangh wants done. Beyond a point, it’s difficult to resist,” a senior BJP leader said.

The party, however, has managed to block some of the Sangh’s more “outrageous” demands. For instance, when Sangh chief K.S. Sudarshan asked the BJP to “accommodate” Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, senior office-bearers united to thwart the move.

Party leaders feel the extent of Sangh interference in the appointment of pradesh prabaris and cell presidents is creating a sense of “incoherence” in the BJP.

“This state of affairs cannot last for ever. The party must get its act together and work coherently on a reasonable agenda. We can’t afford to comply with absolutely bizarre and downright ridiculous directions from the Sangh,” a senior leader said.

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