| Mohan Bhagwat |
New Delhi, Feb. 26: A section of senior JD(U) leaders believes that the RSS is intent on pushing its expansion agenda in Bihar even at the expense of souring ties between the state’s ruling allies.
Two recent events have prodded their suspicions that the RSS bosses want to seize the initiative and assert in a way they never have since the Nitish Kumar-led coalition came to power in 2005: an extended visit by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to Patna in the beginning of February, and, the presence of RSS pointsman Sanjay Joshi at a function organised here last week by prominent Dal rebels.
Joshi, who was recently rehabilitated by BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and put in overall charge of the UP elections, took time off from the hectic campaign to attend the anniversary commemoration of farmers’ leader Sahajanand Saraswati hosted, among others, by Arun Kumar and Upendra Kushwaha, both red rags to the Bihar chief minister.
Kumar is a former JD(U) MP and Kushwaha a sitting Lok Sabha member against whom the JD(U) has sought disciplinary action on account of anti-party activities. “Sanjay Joshi is very close to (Mohan) Bhagwat and it cannot be he joined the rebels without his blessings,” a top JD(U) leader told The Telegraph adding: “This was nothing but an act of deliberate provocation, the RSS is playing among our dissidents.”
The presence of Mohan Bhagwat in Patna, the leader added, was no coincidence. “Bhagwat has been visiting Bihar, like all other states, but it was unusual for him to stay a whole week. His visit coincided with a visible flurry of activity, a lot of it aimed at the Sangh wanting to expand into new social areas.”
The BJP and the RSS have, in recent weeks, held a series of camps and fetes for underprivileged communities — both Dalit and backward — that the JD(U) considers part of its core political base. During his stay in Patna, Bhagwat met functionaries of several Sangh organisations and is believed to have discussed ways of “spreading our message” wider in the state.
Nitish Kumar has led a remarkably trouble-free alliance with the BJP in Bihar thus far, but there is a growing sense in sections of the RSS and the BJP that the “larger interests” of the Sangh are being “sacrificed” and Nitish being allowed to dictate terms. In the words of one RSS functionary: “Every party and organisation has a right to go among the people, it is time that the Sangh frees itself of the shackles of running the alliances and undertakes its activities in an unfettered fashion.”
It is fair to note here that there have been differences within the BJP on the manner in which Nitish has skippered the alliance. There are those, both at the Centre and in the state, who believe that the BJP has “sacrificed too much of its essential persona” in the interests making a success of the alliance. They are, in particular, averse to Nitish’s foregrounding of the “secular agenda” and the many positive discrimination efforts of the government for Bihar’s minorities. Often on internal party fora, deputy chief minister Sushil Modi has been blamed for “ignoring” the distinct identity and objectives of the BJP and the Sangh so that the alliance can run smoothly.
These elements might now be asserting, encouraged by the RSS and Nitin Gadkari.
Nitish has refrained from any public comment on recent developments but sources suggest the chief minister has taken a dim view of the moves he considers “inimical” to the coalition. He is learnt to be particularly upset of the manner in which the RSS has seemed to “court” known JD(U) dissidents like Kushwaha, who is currently protesting the fuel surcharge on electricity tariffs.
The sources were careful to allay “any immediate crisis” in the alliance but did not bet against the “odd spark flying” when NDA legislators meet at the chief minister’s residence for their customary session-time dinner on Tuesday night.