The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP to liaise with Sangh second rung

New Delhi, April 24: The Sangh parivar has put in place a tentative mechanism in a bid to prevent differences from spinning out of control and igniting a fresh crisis such as the one involving RSS leader K.S. Sudarshan.

Sources said that rather than deal with Sudarshan, the BJP would interact 'regularly' with two second-ranking functionaries: RSS general secretary Mohanrao Bhagwat and joint general secretary Suresh Soni.

Bhagwat and Soni are both in their fifties ' a factor that will ensure a relationship of parity with the BJP's second-rung leaders, all in the same age group. It will demand a degree of 'deference' on their part towards Vajpayee and Advani, almost 30 years older.

Sources said though there was a proposal to organise a 'peace meeting' between Sudarshan and Advani, it has been shot down.

Soni has begun meeting the BJP's general secretaries in batches to get an 'idea' of how the political progeny of the RSS works since his own experience has largely been that of a pracharak's in Madhya Pradesh and his interest was in education and culture rather than politics.

The two emissaries do not have much in common with Madan Das Devi, the joint general secretary who was the RSS's man for all seasons and reasons when the NDA ruled for six years.

Devi is a contemporary of BJP leaders like M. Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley in the students' union, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), and could, therefore, relate to them 'without problems'.

But a paralytic stroke rendered Devi immobile and damaged the RSS-BJP equation. 'He enjoyed an excellent rapport with the BJP and things were comfortable for the RSS. His absence is being felt,' RSS spokesman Ram Madhav said.

Unlike Devi, Bhagwat is the quintessential Sangh whole-timer. 'But he is not a typical swayamsevak,' said a source. 'He can be flexible and practical. He looks like Hedgewar (RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar) and shares a lot of his traits, like understanding of human psychology, depth and the ability to take a balanced view.'

Bhagwat, a veterinary doctor by training, became the RSS's general secretary in 2000. As the de jure head of the organisation ' in Sangh parlance, the sarsanghchalak is a 'father figure with no executive powers' ' he built a 'good' rapport with BJP leaders and is also coordinating with the VHP and the ABVP.

He is expected to liaise between the BJP and the VHP and ensure that Ashok Singhal and his colleagues do not go 'out of hand'.

However, even Sudarshan's detractors in the 'parivar' admit that the 'truce' effected at present is at best tenuous. Sudarshan is planning to convene a meeting of pranth pracharaks (state whole-timers) shortly to assess the extent of support he has in his battle against the BJP.

As things stand, he has the support of two BJP leaders, Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi, and the VHP, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. In the RSS, he reportedly has the non-Maharashtrian 'lobby' with him. (See chart)

That Soni, a non-Maharashtrian, was asked to interact with the BJP indicated Sudarshan would have a say in the party's working, although by proxy, sources said.

The potshots Uma took at Advani during recent television interviews were interpreted by the BJP as neither 'innocent nor innocuous' but the result of goading by the anti-Advani sections of the parivar.

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