in temple town, read between the lines
Bole Kashi Vishwanath, Dr Joshi ka denge saath — posters screaming Varanasi’s support to Murli Manohar Joshi have sprung up all across the temple town in the past few days. On the face of it, the posters are timely because they carry Holi greetings — the festival is less than 10 days away. But the declaration that Varanasi will stand by Joshi, the sitting MP, has raised eyebrows because of the buzz that Narendra Modi was considering making his Lok Sabha debut from the temple town. Sources said Joshi did not want to shift and was making his point through the posters. He could not be reached for comment. On Thursday, another campaign started, this time a signature drive seeking support for Modi’s candidature from Varanasi. White boards, bearing the words “We Want Modi” were put up at street corners and people were invite to sign. “We are planning to take five lakh signatures and send it to the BJP high command to lobby for Modi,” said Surendra Tripathi, a Varanasi BJP leader. (Picture of poster in support of Joshi on a Lucknow street by Sanjay Gupta).
New Delhi, March 7: The RSS has clearly signalled that in politics, as in all spheres of life, the old order must make way for the new.
The Sangh’s message coincides with speculation raging in the BJP over the candidacy of its veterans, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, for the Lok Sabha polls. Advani is the sitting MP from Gandhinagar and Joshi from Varanasi.
In Advani’s case, the speculation largely centred around the perception that having soured his relations with Narendra Modi, whose ascendancy as the Prime Minister candidate he steadfastly opposed, it would not be tenable for Advani to contest yet again from Gujarat’s capital and hope to ride comfortably to a victory.
As for Joshi, a section of the Uttar Pradesh BJP, allegedly enthused by the Modi build-up and the belief that his contesting from the state could see the party pick up a record number of the 80 seats, started campaigning for his candidacy from Joshi’s seat.
The active chorus, which reportedly echoed in eastern Uttar Pradesh, was said to have annoyed Joshi, who is camping more and more in Varanasi to consolidate his claim. Joshi won Varanasi for the first time in 2009.
For a long time — since 2004 when former RSS sarsanghachalak K.S. Sudarshan publicly stated that younger leaders must take over the BJP — the Sangh felt it was time Advani and Joshi “retired” from the Lok Sabha and either sat in the upper House or faded into the twilight.
Addressing the media on the first day of the RSS’s annual delegates’ convention at Bangalore, joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale said: “Sangh has never called for retirement of anyone. New faces and the new generation should be given opportunities not just in politics but in all walks of life is the view of Sangh.”
The RSS’s media cell made available a transcript of Hosabale’s interaction.
So far, the BJP leadership’s view was that if Advani wished to contest again from Gandhinagar, “nobody would try and stop him”. “However, if he voluntarily opts out, nobody will persuade him to reconsider his decision either,” a source said.
Regarding Joshi, it was learnt that the BJP’s parliamentary board would take the last call. It was also let on that Modi would contest from only one Lok Sabha seat and a constituency from Uttar Pradesh was being “seriously looked at”.
Hosabale also endorsed Modi in reply to a query on how the Sangh regarded him. “Regarding Modi, we are of the view that he is Sangh’s swayamsevak and, of course, a very capable person who has proved himself in Gujarat.”
The RSS had “blessed” Modi’s elevation in May 2012, when its brass refused to intervene and retain pracharak Sanjay Joshi in the BJP. Joshi and Modi were at daggers drawn and the latter made his ouster a condition for attending the Mumbai meet.
Bhagwat was also reportedly unsympathetic to another Modi adversary, Keshubhai Patel, when he floated a new party before the Gujarat polls, although his personal relations with Patel were supposedly “good”.
Hosabale, however, refrained from expanding on the RSS’s role in the BJP’s affairs for the Lok Sabha elections.
“The selection of candidates is the party’s prerogative. Sangh does not give directions to BJP in selecting candidates. Sangh only expects higher voter turnout which will help in the democratic process, keeping the country’s interest at the highest,” he said, reinforcing a point that RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat had raised in his Vijaya Dashami address last October in Nagpur.
“Our 100 per cent voting will make democracy healthier,” Bhagwat had said.
The Sangh’s accent in an annual report — recording its activities in 2013 — unveiled today was on “youths”. It noted: “More and more young and educated people are coming to Sangh using the ‘Join RSS’ feature on the RSS website.”
The number of such newbies was 12,118 in 2012. In 2013, it rose to 31,102.
The report also claimed that two-thirds of the swayamsevaks who participated in physical training were less than 45.
But the report enshrined the Sangh’s disapproval of live-in relationships and gay sex under the sub-head, “Challenges confronting the Hindu way of life”.
“Bharat is known all over the world for its distinct lifestyle, culture, traditions and value systemů. The ‘institution of marriage’ is our speciality. Without breaching the limits of family, social and ‘dharmic’ conventions, our social life has been secure,” it said.
BJP president Rajnath Singh had endorsed a Supreme Court ruling that upheld Section 377 of the IPC, legalising homosexuality as a criminal offence. The party’s “liberals” balked at Rajnath’s assertion. Obviously, he had taken his cue from the Sangh.