The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal gives Sangh lesson on diversity

New Delhi, July 26: Atal Bihari Vajpayee today used a condolence meet for former RSS sarsanghchalak Rajendra Singh to send out the message that differences within the Sangh parivar should not be seen as disrespectful or straying from the ideological path.

“What was special about Rajju Bhaiyya was we could discuss divergent views with him on different subjects. A time comes when different views are expressed and discussions take place till a final decision is taken, but that never led to any bitterness,” he told a large gathering at Talkatora stadium.

Prime Minister Vajpayee is apparently displeased with the public criticism within the Sangh parivar. His well-known critics Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia and Acharya Giriraj Kishore, all from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, were present at today’s meeting.

“The differences were not seen as disrespectful or straying away from the path. We used to consult him and bare our hearts whenever we faced difficulties, but he never insisted that it would be proper only if we listen to his advice,” Vajpayee said, taking a dig at the current Sangh leadership.

Vajpayee used to share a good rapport with Rajendra Singh, who passed away in Pune recently. But K.S. Sudarshan, who has succeeded him, is known to be uncomfortable with the Prime Minister.

As Vajpayee did some plain speaking, the RSS got some unexpected compliments from National Commission for Minorities chairman Tarlochan Singh. He praised the RSS for having defended the Sikhs during the Partition and the 1984 riots.

Singh, who was last week upgraded to the rank of Cabinet minister, said: “The RSS and Sikhs have always fought shoulder to shoulder. Sikhs can never forget how RSS activists protected them during the Partition and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.”

Several Christian organisations have of late been critical of Singh’s alleged “soft” corner for parivar outfits. Church officials boycotted his recent visit to Gujarat. Singh also recalled that at the height of the agitation for a separate Punjab state, it was the RSS that had issued a directive to Hindus to treat Punjabi as their mother tongue.

Others who addressed the meeting included deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar. Noted Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan also spoke at the meeting.

Maulana Khan lauded the simplicity and patriotism of Rajendra Singh. “He was a source of inspiration for us. We need more Rajju Bhaiyyas in the country.”

Advani described the RSS as a social reform movement that had influenced lakhs of people. “There is no other organisation like the RSS. It is less of an organisation and more of a social reform movement. Overall, it has brought about a lot of change in the society and has influenced lakhs of people.”

He rued that not enough had been written about the RSS and whatever literature was available was penned by westerners. He said the best tribute to Rajendra Singh would be to imbibe his qualities.

Shekhawat credited the late RSS leader with keeping the “entire family” (Sangh parivar) together.

Chandra Shekhar said Rajendra Singh influenced whoever came in contact with him and was a “beacon” who would continue to inspire people.

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