Divided stands the Sangh Parivar today 

There is universal delight in the BJP over Amit Shah’s discomfiture at the exposè on his son’s phenomenal growth since Modi came to power, though, on the record, they may have risen to his defence

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Sujata Anandan

Months before his passing, the 'Lion of Vidarbha', the late Jambuwantrao Dhote, in one of his last interviews to a leading Marathi daily in Nagpur, had said, "Narendra Modi's decline is imminent. But there is nothing the opposition can do to hasten that fall. He will be defeated from within."

Even in October 2016, Dhote thought the rebellion against Modi within the BJP had started to show. He based his premise on his proximity to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who, he claimed, he had helped through various promotions and postings in his government job as a veterinarian. Dhote was once known for his proximity to Indira Gandhi but in his fight for a separate Vidarbha had drawn close to the RSS and BJP. Some months after his death in February and barely a year after his claims that there was a tussle between Modi and the RSS to downsize each other, a battle that, he said, the RSS would eventually win, his words seem to have proven prophetic.

There is universal delight in the BJP camp over party president Amit Shah's discomfiture at the exposè on his son's phenomenal growth since Modi came to power in 2014, though, on the record, they may have risen to his defence. Yet it is clear that sections of the BJP will not allow this to pass so easily. Already in Nagpur, the RSS headquarters and the home constituency of Nitin Gadkari, a past president of the party, there are rumblings. Gadkari had been tripped up by party stalwarts (including Modi) in 2013 when his alleged involvement in unsavoury dealings in his Purti group of companies had come to light. Although Gadkari has far more loopholes to justify those dealings, BJP workers in Nagpur are now raising the cry - will Shah be asked to quit his job as party president, the way Gadkari was forced out even before he could take over in his second term as BJP president? The party Constitution was specifically amended for Gadkari of which Shah, now into his second term, is a clear beneficiary.

"Shah too must quit the way Gadkari did till his name is cleared," is the clamour in Gadkari's home town. It is likely to grow.

Gadkari is a RSS favourite and the campaign seems orchestrated. There are those who believe that BJP insiders have struck a blow against Modi by targetting Shah who is crucial to Modi's continuing existence as prime minister - he will be greatly weakened if Shah is forced to quit. But if Shah continues, not just the BJP but Modi too would lose the moral high ground. It is a Catch-22 situation and Modi knows he has been painted into a corner.

However, it is not just Modi and his detractors in the BJP who seem at odds with each other with less than 18 months to go to the next general elections. Many arms of the Sangh are at cross purposes, manifest in the filing of a petition in the Supreme Court (which has appointed an amicus curaie too look into the claims) by Pankaj Phadnis of the Abhinav Bharat Sangh - he makes it clear he belongs to the Mumbai unit which, he stresses, was not involved in the Malegaon blasts (the Pune unit was) and should not be equated with a terrorist organisation.

Phadnis is convinced there was a British conspiracy (by Force 136) to kill Mahatma Gandhi and that an investigation into who provided the Beretta gun to Nathuram Godse and investigation into the existence of a fourth bullet at Birla House in New Delhi would establish there was another assassin whose bullet actually killed Mahatma Gandhi.

Phadnis told this correspondent, " I am extremely unhappy at the manner in which my petition has been politicised. All I am concerned with is the police investigation. There was a fourth bullet that Gandhi's attendant Manuben found in his shawl and that must be accounted for."

The Mahatma's great-grandson Tushar Gandhi, author of the book "Let's kill Gandhi," rubbishes that claim and says the bullet in the shawl was indeed the third bullet, as one was lodged in his body and the second found in the flower bed of Birla House. "Only three shots were fired, loudly, and heard by all. There were two exit wounds in Bapu's body. So all bullets are accounted for. It is Godse who killed Gandhi."

Amit Bhowmik, a senior advocate in the Bombay High Court whose mother Usha Bhowmik assisted Justice G N Vaidya, who was then a prosecutor in the case on Gopal Godse in the Bombay High Court, says a reading of his mother's case papers make it clear that the conspiracy to kill Gandhi was hatched not by the British but on Kalyan railway station by Godse and his accomplices, one of who was Madanlal Pahwa arrested by the Delhi police for firing a weapon in close vicinity of Gandhi days before his actual assassination.

"The chosen date was January 15 but things went wrong. But when Pahwa was arrested, J C Jain, a book shop owner in Bombay who had employed Pahwa and heard him boast that he and his accomplices were planning to kill a big leader, realised this was no idle talk but serious business. He alerted then Bombay (state) chief minister B G Kher and deputy chief minister Morarji Desai about the conspiracy but they paid him no heed. They were scared to death when Gandhiji was killed a few days later as they realised they could have alerted Nehru and Patel and saved his life." So, if anything, it was a conspiracy of silence and no one ever realised what was afoot.

But now the Hindu Mahasabha (the north unit which is all set to build a temple to Nathuram Godse) is sore at both the Abhinav Bharat and the RSS-BJP for trying to take the credit away from them in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. "Godse killed Gandhi and let there be no doubt about it. RaGa (Rahul Gandhi) is right in a way when he said RSS ideology killed Gandhi," they have said on the record. Asked to comment, Phadnis calms up and says he has nothing to do with or say about the Hindu Mahasabha. "I am not concerned with Godse but the conspiracy. If I am proved wrong, I will withdraw."

Tushar Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and the Hindu Mahasabha then are on the same page about who killed Mahatma Gandhi. It is the Sangh Parivar which must now decide if they are at war with each other over Gandhi's killers.

They are certainly at war with each other - over each other.

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Published: 15 Oct 2017, 10:47 AM