| Vajpayee: Birthday salute
Mumbai, Jan. 13: In what is being billed as the Sangh’s expression of gratitude to a pracharak who took its ideology into politics and has hung his boots after 54 years of fighting elections, the RSS will accord Atal Bihari Vajpayee a rare public felicitation to mark his 80th birthday.
The Sangh, still battling the heat generated by a sex scandal involving another pracharak, has scheduled the felicitation for January 22.
Keshav Srishti, a 200-acre complex built by the RSS and its non-political affiliates at Bhayander in Mumbai’s far-western suburbs, will be the venue.
The function will include the religious ritual Sahasrachandra Darshan (witnessing a thousand moons). The ritual is usually performed to felicitate elders in the family on attaining 80 years of age. It is believed that by the time a person turns 80, he has seen more than a thousand full moons, hence the name.
Vajpayee will participate in the two-hour ritual in the morning followed by a public felicitation by Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan, who had demanded that the BJP’s senior leadership pass on the baton to the younger generation, is likely to be absent. But joint general secretary Madan Das Devi will be there. Although Vajpayee’s “Ram” L.K. Advani is not likely to be present, “Laxman” Pramod Mahajan will attend as chairperson of Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, a parivar affiliate.
The former Prime Minister will reply to the felicitation at the Ram Ratan School grounds at Keshav Srishti, which is likely to be attended by over 15,000 Sangh workers.
Earlier, the BJP had celebrated Vajpayee’s 80th birthday by cutting an 81-kg laddoo on the eve of its silver jubilee convention in Mumbai, at the end of which the former Prime Minister announced his retirement from electoral politics.
Mahajan is to host another birthday celebration at his Delhi home on January 14, where President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected.
The BJP’s senior leadership will be in attendance.
“Despite all the supposed differences, the Sangh is the umbilical cord to all RSS-inspired outfits. This celebration is Sangh parivar’s way of recognising Atalji’s contribution. Sahastrachandra Darshan is a ceremony that happens in a family as a tribute to elders of the family,” an RSS functionary associated with the programme said.
An RSS swayamsevak in early years, Vajpayee worked as a full-time pracharak before joining politics. He was a founder-member of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh set up in 1951 and served as its president from 1968 to 1973. After the BJP was formed in 1980, he served as president for six years. He became an MP for the first time in 1957 and returned to Parliament nine times.
“Atalji’s stature as a parivar member and a statesman is untouched. Sangh’s front-runners were nowhere on the horizon when he started his political career. Atalji also realises the Sangh is at the centre of it all. That’s why even as the Prime Minister, he attended a guru dakshina programme at Murli Manohar Joshi’s house and offered his contribution,” the functionary said.
The felicitation comes barely a fortnight after RSS pracharak Sanjay Joshi on deputation to the BJP quit after he was caught in a sex scandal.