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Laddoo-or-die day
Amid sulk, Sangh says it will keep hands off

New Delhi, May 15: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has said it will not intervene in the cabinet formation or exercise a veto on the appointment of critical portfolios, as it had attempted to do earlier, if the BJP comes to power.

Ram Madhav, a member of the Sangh’s national executive and the sah sampark pramukh (additional communications chief), told The Telegraph: “There will be no intervention in cabinet formation.”

Madhav’s assertion assumed importance in the context of the vacillating relationship the BJP has had with its ideological parent, the RSS, in the past. After they came to power, the contradictions, ideological and policy-related, surfaced and often embarrassed the earlier NDA governments.

That the Sangh, which officially projects itself as a “nationalist cultural” organisation, could overstep its self-designated mandate was evident in 1998 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made up his mind to make Jaswant Singh his finance minister. Jaswant was never a Sangh favourite.

The then sarsanghachalak, Rajendra Singh “Rajju Bhaiyya”, had been instrumental in anointing Vajpayee as the BJP’s prime ministerial face in 1995. But Rajju Bhaiyya rejected Jaswant’s name and pushed for Yashwant Sinha. Vajpayee was forced to accept the Sangh’s choice.

With Narendra Modi, the Sangh’s relations have been qualitatively different. For one, sources said, the Sangh has accepted the reality of Modi’s “success” in governance and administration after his 14-year uninterrupted stint in Gujarat and his “ability” to deliver on crucial sectors such as finance and agriculture.

The Gujarat RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have had their share of run-ins with Modi, notably when he quelled an agitation by the Sangh’s farmers’ wing, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, against the state government’s decision to hike power tariffs for agriculturists in 2004.

The Sangh’s central leaders tried to mediate with Modi and cajole him into withdrawing his decision. But he contended that the hike had been effected after prolonged discussions with the farmers, who wanted uninterrupted power to work their pumps even if it meant paying more. Modi stood his ground.

The VHP had issues when the Gujarat government demolished several illegally constructed temples that blocked the effort to widen roads in Gandhinagar. But Modi refused to listen to the VHP representatives and went ahead.

However, the central RSS did not allow the Gujarat episodes to colour its assessment of Modi and his style of functioning.

It was believed that the Sangh might wish to exercise its veto over a couple of ministries it was ostensibly interested in, such as finance and human resource development.

Indeed, a debate has begun within the BJP whether Modi would adopt the P.V. Narasimha Rao model and marshal the services of a non-political expert to run the finance ministry as Rao did when he brought in Manmohan Singh, or pick someone from within the party.

“Whoever is his choice, the economy will be Modi’s priority. Therefore, the political directions will emanate from him,” a source said.

BJP sources said the Sangh’s role would be confined to that of a “peacemaker” in case a conflict arose.

The Sangh has reportedly conveyed to Sushma Swaraj that her sulking will not be countenanced any longer and that if she wished to be part of a prospective Modi-led government, she would have to “learn” to function with him and accept the portfolio that is handed to her.

The Sangh would like veteran L.K. Advani to “mentor” the BJP. A source who recently met Advani claimed: “He will not be a part of the possible government.”

In the flurry of meetings that took place today, with just a few hours to go before the votes were counted, BJP president Rajnath Singh and Uma Bharti met Advani. “Advani looked very happy after a long time,” said Uma Bharti.

Suresh Soni, the RSS official who mediates with the BJP, met Rajnath and the general secretary (organisation), Ramlal. “It was a review meeting,” a BJP source said.

It is learnt that the first outreach to the Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal leader, Naveen Patnaik, was made by Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje who has known him for a long time.

Even if the NDA gets a majority, a BJP source said, it will eventually need the help of the non-Congress parties in the Rajya Sabha to push legislation through. The NDA lacks the requisite numbers in the Upper House.


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