Advani cosies up to RSS, flaunts swayamsewak badge

March 20th, 2008 - 6:12 pm ICT by admin  

By Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi
New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) The launch of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani’s autobiography has renewed bonding between him and his mentors in the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). The bitterness that had soured relations between Advani and the RSS on more than one occasion when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was in the saddle in Delhi may now belong to the past.

The camaraderie exhibited Wednesday evening by Advani and RSS general secretary Mohan Bhagwat as they sat on the podium side by side signalled all is well between the two - at least for now.

“My thinking, my nature have all been influenced by the RSS. If there are any virtues in me, I owe it to the RSS. It is my ideological family,” said Advani expanding on his memoirs “My Country My Life”.

Though the RSS describes itself as a cultural organization, it is in essence an ideological ‘watchdog’ of the BJP, monitoring and guiding its activities, keeping it on a tight leash, more so when the party is at the helm of the country’s affairs.

Such is the RSS’ clout over the BJP that the party could declare Advani as its prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections only after it received a go-ahead from it.

Bhagwat responded warmly to the man who could well be the next prime minister. “There is a difference of one generation between Advaniji and me, and we are also not close to each other personally. But what is common is that he is a swayamsewak (RSS volunteer) and so am I,” Bhagwat said.

RSS pracharaks tend to keep away from BJP’s public functions. Bhagwat’s presence at the book release ceremony, therefore, was news in itself, reiterating the close ties between the party and its ideological fountainhead.

The Sangh kept a close vigil on the NDA government. Caught in the pull of ideology and compulsions of governance, the RSS and the BJP clashed time and again during the six-year NDA rule (1998-2004). It was not only Deputy Prime Minister Advani, but also Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who often found himself up against the RSS.

The RSS was furious with Advani when, in June 2005, he praised Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah as a “secular” leader. It sought an explanation from Advani for describing in such terms a leader who had backed the two-nation theory.

Advani had to pay a heavy price when the RSS within a few months of the controversy saw him removed from the post of BJP president.

Even on issues of governance there were frequent clashes of views. The RSS wanted to change the portfolios of two ministers - Yashwant Sinha and Arun Jaitley. And it finally had its way - though against the wishes of both Advani and Vajpayee.

Sinha was removed from the finance ministry and put in charge of external affairs.

The acrimony is likely to resurface in future if the BJP is in a position to form government in Delhi, after next year’s general elections.

Advani, as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, is keen on bettering relations with the Sangh. And from all indication at the book launch event, the process seemed to have begun.

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