The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh sets price for defiance

New Delhi, July 11: L.K. Advani may stay or go but the RSS hopes the one “salutary” message that will go down to the last member of the Hindutva parivar is that defying ideology can mean humiliation and loss of power.

Sangh sources claimed that contrary to media projection the war of attrition was not between K.S. Sudarshan and Advani or between the RSS and its political progeny BJP, but between ideology and “something undefinable”.

No one in the Sangh could quite put his finger on what exactly BJP president Advani had aspired to when, Icarus-like, he sprouted mythical wings to help span the space from hardline Hindutva to “secularism” and “liberalism”.

Was it to make himself “acceptable” to unattached secular parties in the hope that a realignment of forces in the Lok Sabha would catapult him to the Prime Minister’s seat' Or was it to reshape the BJP according to a new “secular-liberal” blueprint in the belief that in India religious polarisation could not take any party too far'

As the BJP grappled for answers, the Sangh was clear any ideological deviation would only be on peril of loss of power. Its formulation was simple: its cadre had been weaned on a “hate Pakistan” diet which put the loyalty of every Indian Muslim to his/her place of birth to test. Therefore, it was blasphemous for Advani to suggest the founder of Pakistan was “secular”.

This was not ambivalence of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee brand where a statement could be either pro- or anti-RSS depending on which prism the receiver used. Vajpayee’s pronouncements confused the RSS as much as the liberals, so he escaped censure.

Advani, habituated to thinking and articulating more directly, made himself explicable to the RSS and got the wrong end of its stick.

The other reason the RSS could come down harsher on Advani than on Vajpayee was because of the dynamics of power. As long as the NDA was in office, the Sangh could do no more than carp on what it deemed were “ideological” and “policy aberrations” ' pro-economic reforms, jettisoning of Article 370 and a common civil code, putting the Ram temple on the backburner etc. Privately, Sangh sources used to admit they cannot have it better under a BJP-led coalition.

Vajpayee used his political savvy to have Sudarshan “banished” from Delhi to the base camp in Nagpur when he began attacking officials of the Prime Minister’s Office, notably Brajesh Mishra, and members of his foster family. For much of the NDA’s tenure, Sudarshan was rarely heard and hardly ever seen.

BJP sources said the “flaw” in Advani’s strategy was he imagined he could effect a major change in the BJP while out of power. Minus the trappings of office, he could not neutralise the negative fallout of an attempted ideological shift by showering largesse on RSS members and party cadre. The timing for his secular enterprise was wrong.

If he stays, the conclusion is obvious: even Advani loyalists admit he has no choice but to steer the BJP along the trajectory chalked out by the RSS.

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