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RSS works for united show before poll

New Delhi, Dec. 19: After nearly 10 years, the RSS has taken upon itself to guard the BJP’s flanks in every way as the parivar’s paterfamilias before the 2014 elections.

From helping rev up the central party organisation and the state offshoots to re-igniting defunct fronts that had become sources of patronage instead of functioning appendages and getting its other offsprings (the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Swadeshi Jagran Manch) on board, RSS sarsanghachalak Mohanrao Bhagwat is leading the battle for power, though not exactly from the front.

The RSS had not shown the same enthusiasm that it is displaying this time in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

“The RSS’s role is akin to that of a puppeteer, manipulating the strings that tend to get tangled,” a source said.

Bhagwat is equally interested in ensuring that the tenuous peace attained among the BJP brass, which was not one in picking Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate to start with, did not fray over the next six months.

In particular, Bhagwat and his colleagues are watching L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj with “trepidation” as even an insinuation from either, forget an outburst, could shatter the household calm.

Therefore, on December 17, Bhagwat agreed to be the guest of honour at the launch of a compilation of Advani’s blogs in the capital. His primary message to the veteran, who was the spearhead of the BJP’s anti-Modi group, was that the “parivar” still valued his experience and as such he should integrate himself in the party mainstream instead of staying aloof.

Bhagwat purveyed his message subtly through the parable of the burning village:

A village housewife suddenly discovered that when she spat betel juice into a “havan kund” (sacrificial fire), the spittle transformed into a gold nugget. Once word spread, everyone in the village imitated her, lit up holy fires and produced gold nuggets. The village prospered except inexplicably for the original miracle-maker and her husband; their paan dribbles turned to nothing.

The couple left the village in despair. But soon as they departed, the village started to burn. The husband’s parting shot was everyone was safe as long as he and his wife were around.

Bhagwat’s wise words to the BJP’s patriarch were: “Advaniji is in politics. He has to stay among them (the politicians) so that the village is not reduced to ashes.” The RSS chief also asked Advani to “find happiness in whatever you get in life”.

While those close to Advani spun Bhagwat’s message into a “leg-up” for Advani and even read into it the possibility of him being a Prime Minister contender in 2014, a more neutral assessment was the RSS sarsanghachalak “gently” reminded Advani his present standing in the BJP without being “rude and abrasive”.

“Bhagwat graciously told Advani his services were required but as the BJP’s bhishmapitama (grand old patriarch). Other leaders said the same thing earlier. But coming from the RSS chief, Advani should read it in the spirit in which it was conveyed. There is no question of positioning him as another potential PM or something. That issue was settled months ago. But we can’t afford to have a sulking Advani around. So the RSS chief meant to say we value you but times have also changed and please reconcile yourself to the changed times,” a source said.

In the meetings that the RSS seniors have had with their BJP peers, including those held over the last weekend, Advani was not present.

However, two tests still await before it is established who is in and who is out: the re-induction of the former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. The move is still being opposed by Advani while the rest have accepted it. The second is selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls.

Each member of the BJP brass hopes to push in nominees to gain leverage that can help them in a post-Lok Sabha election scenario if the numbers aren’t good enough for Modi’s “natural” graduation into Prime Minister-ship.