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Enter, the man of the mismatch

Bhagwat (top) and Modi

New Delhi, Aug. 11: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received a reality check from Sangh chief Mohanrao Bhagwat barely 24 hours after extolling new BJP president Amit Shah as the “Man of the Match” of the election win.

Bhagwat, without naming Modi or Shah, said on Sunday that the BJP had won the polls because “people wanted change”. As news channels played up the mismatch, the Opposition pounced.

“Paradox-schisms between the RSS/BJP already manifested? PM attributes election results to one man while Mohan ji Bhagwat credits people,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari tweeted.

Modi’s comments had come at Saturday’s party national executive that ratified Shah as BJP chief. Bhagwat’s apparent rejoinder came at an event in Bhubaneswar.

“Some are giving credit to the party (BJP) while others are giving credit to some individuals for the victory,” he was quoted as saying.

“But the organisation and the party were there earlier and so were the individuals. What happened then? It’s the people who wanted change during the elections, who brought the party to power.”

The comments may be seen as downplaying even Modi’s role in the triumph.

Officially, the party and its parent kept mum. A Sangh source tried to play down the apparent contradiction by citing the different contexts of the two leaders’ comments.

“Modi was addressing a party meeting, so it was important for him to project the new president in the right perspective before the cadre. (Bhagwat’s) address was more general and related to values the Sangh holds dear,” the source said. He listed these values: “downplaying” personalities and stressing the primacy of the organisation and the nation.

Another Sangh official placed the controversy in the larger context of the Sangh-BJP relationship, which he said was “more nuanced than some in the media believe”.

“These sections describe it in filial terms, as an overbearing parent watching over a progeny for fear he may go astray,” he said.

“But over the decades, the BJP has grown in size and strength and has acquired its own life. These are factors we cannot ignore.”

He added: “The sarsanghachalak (Bhagwat) is pragmatic and, therefore, aware of the deeper dynamics that shape his relationship with Modiji. He will not do anything to destabilise the equation, however much the Congress may wish.”

Yet, Bhagwat’s remarks appeared to follow a pattern. Last March, as the Sangh mobilised its cadre behind the BJP’s poll campaign, he had distanced the parent from the offspring.

He was quoted as telling an internal meeting “the Sangh’s job is not to chant ‘NaMo, NaMo’ but to work towards achieving our own targets”.

When a delegate asked whether the Sangh-BJP equation would mirror that between the thinker Chanakya and his protégé, the emperor Chandragupta Maurya, Bhagwat had replied: “In the present circumstances, it’s more important to work in a detached manner.”