|Advani (top), Mahajan
New Delhi, April 6: Out of office, the BJP brass has rediscovered the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its own 'karyakartas (workers)'.
When the National Democratic Alliance was in power, the BJP had an uneasy equation with the RSS and party workers were no more than invisible masses to the leaders, to be used in elections and then sent back to the barracks.
Today, at the national council meeting to mark the BJP's silver jubilee, party president L.K. Advani reached out to both in his presidential address, and other speakers, notably general secretary Pramod Mahajan, went overboard with praise.
Both had their reasons. Advani had to bend over backwards to humour the Sangh because its leaders, including sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan, were believed to 'disapprove' of his installation as BJP chief allegedly without taking the RSS into confidence.
As for Mahajan, the Sangh never approved of his 'five-star' habits and party workers were offended at his and his brother-in-law Gopinath Munde's alleged conversion of the state unit into a family fief.
Both the RSS and large sections of 'karyakartas' did not work for the BJP in last year's Maharashtra elections, of which Mahajan was in charge.
Advani today used his speech to renew his party's bonds with the Sangh. 'Our inflexible stand on our association with the RSS gave us a distinct ideological identity, about which we have never been apologetic nor will we ever be.'
The BJP chief cited the 'dual membership' controversy, which led to the Janata Party government's downfall in 1979, as an instance of their unshakeable ties. Some leaders had demanded that the BJP (then the Jan Sangh) sever its ties with the RSS if it wanted to remain a part of their 'parivar'. But Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani had put their foot down and pulled the Jan Sangh out, making the government lose majority.
George Fernandes, who along with Charan Singh, Raj Narain and Madhu Limaye had opposed the Jan Sangh's dual membership 25 years ago, today shared the dais with Advani as a special NDA guest.
Praising the Sangh, Advani said: 'No other family of organisations has suffered so much sustained vilification from ideological adversaries. Yet, none has forged ahead so self-confidently, so tirelessly and with so much inner conviction as we and our fellow nationalist organisations have.'
Mahajan went a step further, saying the BJP and RSS shared the same blood group. 'Those who will not accept this reality can go. We are ready to give sworn affidavits saying we are swayamsevaks, first and last, and not opportunists.'
The 'samaanya karyakarta (ordinary worker)' came in for a tribute from Advani, who said their honorific carried the honour of 'asamaanya gaurav (extraordinary honour)' in a cadre-based party like the BJP.