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Sangh signals support for Modi

New Delhi, June 20: Mohanrao Bhagwat, the RSS sarsanghachalak, has indicated that the Sangh is firmly with Narendra Modi in the latest face-off sparked by Nitish Kumar’s insistence that the NDA declare a “secular” Prime Minister candidate for the 2014 elections.

Bhagwat has also nudged the BJP to reply appropriately to the barbs thrown at Modi by the Bihar chief minister and his colleagues after the party sounded defensive and reticent in television debates yesterday.

Barring a BJP sympathiser from Karnataka — who keeps a low profile despite being a mover-and-shaker in the party’s politics — the talking heads praised Modi and Nitish for their “development” work and refrained from taking sides.

Sources said the message was also meant for BJP leaders who hoped the “secular-communal” polemics flagged off by Nitish as a touchstone for choosing the next Prime Minister candidate could “help” their “cause”.

“They thought if Modi’s name was shot down because of the imperative of coalition dynamics, one of them might get the job,” a source said.

Bhagwat’s prod was placed in the public domain in a hush-hush way, typical of the RSS that cloaks its political interventions as “philosophical musings”.

Addressing a closed-door meeting of swayamsevaks at a training camp in Maharashtra’s Latur, Bhagwat reportedly quoted Nitish’s remarks and asked if having only “secular” leaders in the country’s highest constitutional offices meant Hindus had no chance.

Sources cited him as wondering: “Does this mean that a Hinduwadi cannot become a PM?”

Sources also quoted the sarsanghachalak as saying Hindutva and secularism were “mutually compatible”. “Hinduism is the religion of humanism. You are right and we are also right. Hinduism follows this broad philosophy,” Bhagwat reportedly said.

His punch line was that to keep Hindutva alive, Hindus must “unite” and elect a Prime Minister who believes and propounds the ideology.

Bhagwat’s interventions were promptly put on TV.

Normally, nothing said at the RSS’s internal sittings is revealed except when the Sangh so wishes. “Obviously, the sarsanghachalak’s views were publicised as signals to the BJP and the NDA at large,” a source said.

Within minutes, Rajya Sabha MP Balbir Punj, who often doubles as a BJP spokesperson and is a fervent Modi-backer, said: “Nobody has the right to give a fatwa on who is secular. The BJP has not outsourced this sort of judgement to anyone outside the party.”

Bhagwat’s comments made lead “breaking” news for several hours until Nitish’s party, the Janata Dal (United), reacted. Its Rajya Sabha MP, Shivanand Tiwari, alleged that the BJP lost the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls because the “secular” votes gravitated towards the UPA. He added that the Dal (U) had an alliance with the BJP and not Modi and stressed it would not compromise on secularism.

An RSS source said at this juncture, they decided to “cap” the exchange.

In Delhi, Sangh spokesperson Ram Madhav put Bhagwat’s statements in the “right perspective”. Claiming the Sangh chief’s remarks should not be placed in the current political context, Madhav said Hindutva was the Sangh’s ideological anchor because it was “liberal, all-embracing and secular”.

“It is totally uncalled for to link his view to day-to-day happenings on the political front and statements of certain leaders,” Madhav said.

Madhav’s media interaction over, the BJP was like a tap gone dry. “Let’s leave Nitish for the moment because the BJP wants to concentrate on its agitation against price rise and the UPA’s corruption. The RSS made its point,” a source said.

Modi, too, tweeted that he did not wish to join issue with Nitish. Rapping the media for “misinterpreting” the “karma” tweet he posted hours after Nitish’s dare, he claimed: “Every morning I share an inspiring quote of Swami Vivekananda. I request media friends not to misquote it for TRPs.”