RSS has an unwritten law that its functionary neither be a BJP member nor a person with ABVP background, Hasbole has ABVP background while Krishna Gopal is BJP In-charge
By Anil Anand
Come March-2018 and all eyes would be on Rashtriya Swayam Sangh (RSS). Not that the organization of which BJP is the political arm, is in any manner out of focus or less important ever since the party under Narendra Modi, himself a RSS sawayam sevak , came to power in Delhi and electorally captured state after state. Come March and RSS would hold its Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabba (ABPS) meeting and polls to elect is ‘sarkaryavah’ or the number two in the hierarchy.
This election is held in RSS, otherwise known more for a dictatorial regime as its head or Sarsanghchalak is selected for life time, every fourth year. The number two post is considered significant as the elected individual is an executive head and commands lot of influence and power. The election also triggers large scale organizational changes as the new number two also seizes the opportunity to set up a new team.
This year’s ABPS meeting and related election is different and evoking interest as the meet would be held under growing aura of Prime Minister Modi and the one who knows the RSS working like the back of his hand by dint of having remained a fulltime ‘sawayam sevak’. The second factor adding to this interest is that the incumbent ‘sarkaryavah’ Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi, a fiercely independent-minded functionary, might not get a second term amidst reports of ill health. This post being akin to executive head entails lot of travel and he might not be able to undertake extensive travelling particularly due to a knee problem among other things.
What has generated added interest this time around is whether the new number two in RSS would be someone of Modi’s choice or close to him? A RSS watcher debunked this theory of closeness or choice of Modi but added sarcastically, “who among RSS’s current top brass is not close to Modiji as these are the reflections of wielding and enjoying power even if that meant no personal gains.” This amply explained the importance of this year’s election.
In all probability Bhaiyyaji Joshi will not be fielded for a third time though there is no term-bar in RSS’s scheme of things. The persons in immediate contention or in the realm of possibility to take his place are Dattatreya Hosbale, 60, which is like in Indian politics a comparative younger age to get to the top levels of the organization, and Dr Krishan Gopal who is RSS’s in charge of BJP.
Hosable’s reported close relations with Modi put him in an advantageous position between the two. Hosable’s advantage, apart from Modi factor, also lies in the fact that usually and not necessarily the RSS’s in charge of BJP is kept away from the number two position. But that does not mean that this unwritten rule has not been flouted in the past.
However, another source familiar with RSS functioning did not rule out the possibility of a surprise third choice. Admitting that Hosabale has some advantage, he said that much would depend on the situation on that particular day. Agreed that two unwritten rules are kept in mind to select a candidate for election to the number two slot and these are; the candidate should not be in charge of BJP and secondly he should not be of ABVP background, but there are instances when these were overlooked. Hosable has the ABVP background if Dr Gopal is BJP in charge. “It would be naive if someone rules out both of them at this juncture,” he added.
Who could be the dark-horse is not known at this stage. But it is generally being felt that Hosable getting a nod could dramatically change power equations within RSS particularly in regard to BJP and its governments. It will certainly be advantage Modi.
The election has also become significant as it is being viewed in the light of RSS’s endeavour to have a young and fresh team in place. Bhaiyyaji Joshi is 70 and if he is replaced by a younger Hosable with his close relations with Modi, the RSS-BJP ties look poised for interesting times. Would that mean Modi holding greater sway over RSS? There are mixed views as a school of thought including some individuals with RSS proximity feel that even ‘Sarsanghchalak’ Mohan Bhagwat enjoy’s Modi’s confidence though his proximity to a powerful Union Minister is well-known. The others feel that someone like Hosable becoming powerful number two would definitely be seen in the context of Modi’s growing influence even in the Sangh Parivar of which RSS is the pivot.
There is no denying the fact that Hosable has lot of support in BJP apart from his perceived closeness to Modi. This has been talked about repeatedly within the RSS even to the extent of alleging that a public buzz was deliberately created in Hosable’s favour by this support-base.
There is also a strong feeling that Bhagwat would have a greater say in selecting candidate for the election. It would be interesting to see if in the ultimate scheme of things how much would Bhagwat-Joshi duo succeed in selection of a candidate or will factor Modi work in RSS also as it has been working elsewhere.
There are strong sections within the RSS who have already started undermining Hosable’s likely candidature on the basis of his ABVP links. The logic forwarded by them is that he was only active in this student outfit and did not rise directly from RSS ‘shakha’ which is its base.
Whatever be his background Hosabale seems to be the front-runner to get the number two post in RSS. This position has become important given the fact that Lok Sabha elections are approaching fast and before that BJP would be facing important assembly elections in its ruled states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh and also Karnataka where the party is vying to regain power.
There is also a strong feeling in the BJP-RSS circles that with Hosable as number two or the executive head, there are bright chances of better coordination. He is said to be in regular touch with Modi and the two also meet regularly.
The election to number two-slot is also being viewed in the context of Modi’s current public support base. There is a strong feeling even within the RSS of erosion in his public support and a chance for them to strike back in terms of raising RSS’s stakes in lieu of providing support in future electoral contests.