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Swipe at Modi shows cracks in Sangh

New Delhi, Nov. 12: The Sangh parivar’s monolithic fašade has received another blow with former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh spokesperson M.G. Vaidya alleging Narendra Modi’s hand in the campaign to oust Nitin Gadkari.

He said the Gujarat chief minister had put up Ram and Mahesh Jethmalani to attack the BJP president.

Hours after Vaidya posted the claim in his Sunday blog “Bhashya”, son Manmohan Vaidya was forced to retract his father’s charges. Gadkari too, apparently following a nudge from a Modi emissary, dismissed Vaidya Sr’s charges.

Vaidya Jr is the Sangh’s chief propagandist and heads its publicity cell. Vaidya Sr held a similar job in the 1990s but lost it after his weekly column in a Nagpur-based pro-Sangh daily, Tarun Bharat, relentlessly attacked the BJP and its Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In his blog, Vaidya Sr ruled out Modi’s prospects of leading the BJP or the NDA in the next election. “Modi might have felt that Gadkari as the BJP president will hamper his chances of becoming the PM. He is using Jethmalani to fulfil his plans,” he wrote.

He alleged that Modi’s prime ministerial “aspirations” had risen further after Gadkari and L.K. Advani “opted out” of the “race”.

Vaidya Jr’s statement stressed that his father’s opinions did not reflect the Sangh’s “official view”. Sangh spokesperson Ram Madhav endorsed the statement.

Chief BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said a “malicious campaign” was on to “malign Modi’s image ahead of the Gujarat polls”.

Sources said an intermediary working on Modi’s behalf told Gadkari the chief minister had reason to believe that Vaidya Sr’s blog had been “prejudiced” by BJP and Sangh leaders, and that Gadkari should clarify his stand in the interests of the party.

The party chief went out of his way to placate Modi and alluded to Vaidya Sr as a “journalist” instead of as a “swayamsevak”, which he continues to be despite not holding a Sangh post.

The BJP chief said he rejected Vaidya Sr’s “insinuation” and emphasised: “The BJP is firmly and unitedly behind Narendra Modi, and we are confident that the party will win decisively in the (Gujarat) Assembly elections.”

Vaidya Jr fell out with Modi when the former was Gujarat’s “pranth pracharak” (propagandist). He was sent to Chennai and then moved to Nagpur and is now part of the Sangh’s 23-member working executive committee.

Sangh and BJP sources drew a distinction between Ram Jethmalani’s clamour for Gadkari’s head and Vaidya Sr’s blog. They said that Jethmalani — who re-entered the BJP as a Rajya Sabha MP because of Modi’s exertions — did not enjoy much clout in the party but Vaidya Sr’s counsel was “at times” taken seriously by Sangh chief Mohanrao Bhagwat. “So, the two are not on a par,” a BJP source saidSources said that despite pressure from cadres and the BJP’s younger leaders to project Modi as the party’s principal leader in 2014, the Sangh was “hesitant”. The reasons they cited were:

• The Sangh fears that foregrounding Modi would consolidate minority votes in the Congress’s favour.

• The NDA might unravel.

• Modi might be “unacceptable” to the BJP brass because of his controversial style of functioning.