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Sangh ‘reliable’ pat for Modi

Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani drives out of the Pakistan embassy after meeting high commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi on Tuesday. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi, Aug. 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to cry off foreign secretary talks with Pakistan after an Islamabad envoy met a Kashmiri separatist has earned him brownie points with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Sangh sources claimed they had “reasons to believe” that “pracharak” (whole-timer) Modi had vindicated their belief that he would make for a “far more credible and successful” Prime Minister than “swayamsevak” Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

An RSS official said “informal talks” between Kashmiri separatists and the Pakistani establishment were “always covertly on” and people knew about them.

“The Indian government benignly neglected these so-called small developments to foster a larger agenda of dialogue. But this time, a week before the talks, when the Pakistan high commissioner in India met Shabbir Shah and other Kashmiri leaders despite India’s objections, he indirectly made them a third party to the Kashmir issue.

“The moment this happened, we had no doubt that politically, Modi would make the right move. After all, Pakistan’s hand in instigating trouble in Kashmir formed a vital part of Modi’s and the BJP’s pre-poll discourse.”

Asked why the RSS had kept quiet when former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf met separatist leaders in Delhi when he was in the national capital on the invitation of then Prime Minister Vajpayee, the Sangh source said Vajpayee “carried a different kind of legacy and stature”.

“What Atalji did was Atalji-like. But the Agra summit that followed was unsuccessful. We expect Modi to conduct himself differently because he comes with a different image and entirely different expectations. His actions have to speak aloud because he believes in communicating directly with people.”

The RSS, sources said, does not anticipate the kind of troubled equation that Vajpayee shared with the Sangh, a circumstance that at times empowered him to take decisions that were opposed by the Sangh and at times put off crucial ones under duress.

Vajpayee’s sheath armour against the Sangh was made up of Brajesh Mishra, his principal secretary-cum-national security adviser, Jaswant Singh and, to an extent, Yashwant Sinha.

Mishra, a former diplomat, made it clear that he was in the BJP because of Vajpayee and would have nothing to do with the RSS. The Sangh, too, never forgot that it was Mishra’s father, Dwarka Prasad Mishra, who as chief minister of the erstwhile United Provinces, had ordered the arrest of RSS leader M.S. Golwalkar for his alleged complicity in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.

Jaswant, a lateral entrant to the BJP, was aloof towards the RSS, an attitude that cost him the finance minister’s job in 1998.

Sinha, another inductee from outside the RSS, had initially cosied up to the Sangh and its swadeshi lobby and managed to swing the finance minister’s post. Once in the saddle, he faithfully executed Vajpayee’s reforms wish list.

With Modi, a Sangh source said, there would be “minor” areas of friction. “But the plus point is that he has put in place mechanisms of coordination. Then, we know that Modi will never ever compromise on the basics of our ideology. He will not be a soft liberal. So, even if we think the government is going a bit far on economic reforms, it is something we can live with. Remember, when it came to the World Trade Organisation, Modi put national interests first.”

Vajpayee sometimes responded to the Sangh acerbically when he thought its leaders were going over the top on Hindutva. “With Modi, we do not anticipate any such response,” a source said. “He will carry on with his work and not let himself get side-tracked because his priorities are clear.”