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BJP boss banks on Vajpayee model

New Delhi, March 25: Behind Rajnath Singh’s “conciliatory” overtures towards rebel Jaswant Singh and potential dissident Harin Pathak lies a deeper agenda, BJP sources said.

By pursuing the BJP’s “manao aur jodo” (mollify and unite) line that it adopts when pushed into a corner, the party chief was trying to prove that he was an “old world” politician in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee mould, sources said. But when his interests were hit, Vajpayee himself had discarded this approach.

In 1998, in a surgical manoeuvre he had ordered that K.N. Govindacharya, a former ideologue and an RSS favourite, be thrown out of the BJP because he had described Vajpayee as a “mask” and L.K. Advani as the “real power” in a conversation with a diplomat. Govindacharya disappeared into near-oblivion.

Until a couple of days ago, Rajnath went along with the general sense that Jaswant should not be placated after he had hit out at Narendra Modi, the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

The post-Vajpayee-Advani line-up, raring to go and maximise poll gains, is impatient with the “manao aur jodo” school of politics. “If someone acts up, their instinct would be ‘jao, jao’ (go),” a source said.

But the risk inherent in the “jao, jao” style is that it might put off the non-BJP parties that have tied up with it or are looking to do so, the source said. “There is a chilling ruthlessness that might not be acceptable to the others.”

For instance, the only apparent reason why a five-time MP, Rajendrasinh Rana, was denied a ticket is that he is a friend of Sanjay Joshi, a former RSS “pracharak” who had once outfoxed Modi in Gujarat BJP politics and ensured that he stayed out of the state for some time.

Like Modi, gifted with an elephantine memory, Vasundhara Raje was unprepared to “forgive” Jaswant for “troubling” her periodically by banding together dissidents in Rajasthan, the sources said. Right now, she is far better placed than Jaswant in the Rajasthan party structure, having won the Assembly election practically on her own steam.

However, Rajnath has a history of felling his opponents in Uttar Pradesh without leaving his pugmarks. Sources said Kalyan Singh, the state BJP’s unchallenged monarch, did not have a clue what the then state unit president was up to until he was served a show-cause notice for “indiscipline” by Rajnath.

Unlike Sushma Swaraj and Advani, who laid bare their ambitions and made it clear they would not countenance a Modi regime, Rajnath “operated more smoothly”, sources said.

“He has accepted Modi as his biggest ally for the moment,” a source said. “But who knows when the dynamics will turn?”