Will Modi-Shah duo get away with bid to cut RSS to size?

Omission of Nitin Gadkari, known for proximity to RSS, from BJP’s parliamentary board, in particular, signals a major political shift in highest echelons of the BJP in the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah era

Representative image
Representative image

Arun Srivastava

The political spectre looming over the country points to bad days. The recent political actions of PM Narendra Modi unambiguously underline the threat of India turning into an authoritarian State. He has turned into such a self-aggrandizer that he is reluctant to stand critics even in his own party and the RSS, its parent organisation.

He is evidently on a drive to weed out such elements behind the veneer of revitalising the party and honouring the stalwarts. What made Modi suddenly realise the importance of rehabilitation of old leaders whom he himself had removed from the scene is really intriguing, however. It would seem that Nitish Kumar’s decision to jettison the BJP in Bihar has unnerved Modi.

Even his die-hard friends cannot deny the fact that Modi is, in the prevailing political situation, being held in low esteem. He has clearly failed to fulfil expectations of the country’s masses to provide good governance and root out corruption as he had vowed to do.

Unaware of the ground reality, however, Modi has now evidently come to nurture such a degree of arrogance that he is not afraid of dictating terms to the RSS. The latest move of dropping ‘efficient’ Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan from the BJP’s parliamentary board seems to be an indication of that.

In a major reshuffle ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP on Wednesday reconstituted its two top decision-making bodies: the 11-member parliamentary board and 15-member Central Election Committee, dropping Nitin Gadkari and Shivraj Singh Chauhan, indicating their diminishing stock in the party.

The omission of Gadkari, in particular, from the powerful body signals a major generational and political shift in the highest echelons of the BJP in the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah era. Modi has sent a clear message that he is not willing to tolerate any kind of criticism to his leadership.

Gadkari is also a former BJP chief and by virtue of this alone, he should have found a place on the board. The party is known to keep former presidents in the decision-making process. Gadkari is also known for his proximity to RSS, of course.

The party has appointed six new members, including former IPS officer Iqbal Singh Lalpura and Haryana leader Sudha Yadav, in the parliamentary board.

Headed by BJP president JP Nadda, the two panels include the senior-most members of the BJP — Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh.

Significantly, former Karnataka CM B S Yediyurappa and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal have found place in the new committees. Yediyurappa, it may be recalled, was forced to resign for alleged involvement in corruption. Though his induction points to Modi’s desire for the BJP to expand in south India, it also aims at countering the domination of the RSS.

Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, who led the BJP to an unprecedented second term in the state, has not been ‘rewarded’ with a place in either of the two bodies. He is clearly not on good terms with Modi-Shah, and his exclusion implies that he has no role to play in key decision-making process in the party.

It is no secret that Modi’s owes his success to combining the RSS’s traditional sense of organization with the populist nature of electoral politics. Now, he apparently finds himself in a bind, and is now keen to project his own image larger than that of the RSS.

Once the proverbial blue-eyed boy of the RSS, his desperation to outgrow his relationship with the RSS was reflected in his ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ slogan in the run-up to the 75th Independence Day celebrations . This move put the RSS in an embarrassing situation. Just ahead of August 15, some RSS leaders were constrained to put up the national flag on their houses.

This had prompted Congress leader Jairam Ramesh to remark: “We are putting DP of our leader Nehru with tricolour in hand. But it seems that the message of the Prime Minister did not reach his family only. Those who did not hoist the flag in their headquarters in Nagpur for 52 years, will they obey the Prime Minister?"

It can hardly be denied that Modi’s endeavour to flood social media profiles with the national flag had not exactly moved the RSS, which initially failed to change the display picture on its own official social media handles.

The mood could be made out from the observation of a senior RSS functionary: “We don’t take any decision under anyone’s pressure. If the display picture of our official Twitter handle has to be changed, it will be done in due course of time.”

Top RSS leader leaders are said to be beleaguered with the sense that the BJP is trying to deny its inherent right to oversee the latter’s morals and manners and it does not like drafting senior RSS leaders into the party. The party leadership is pursuing its own independent political line without RSS’s approval though the latter provides foot soldiers to ensure the victory of the BJP candidates in the elections.

Incidentally, the feedback received from RSS cadre working at the ground level has been quite disappointing and it feels that the BJP is losing ground, with Modi’s name being the only vote-getter.

(IPA Service)

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Published: 18 Aug 2022, 8:10 PM