Mohan Bhagwat is new RSS chief, Sudarshan quits (Lead, Chanding dateline)

March 21st, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Anand and Shyam Pandharipande
Nagpur, March 21 (IANS) Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief K.S. Sudarshan Saturday stepped down on health grounds, handing over the mantle to Mohan Bhagwat, a veterinary doctor who detests party politics.

Expressing his inability to continue to shoulder the “onerous responsibility” that entailed hectic touring across India, Sudarshan, 74, requested colleagues that he should be allowed to resign.

Sudarshan was speaking at the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the national representative body of India’s most influential Hindu nationalist group.

“Sudarsahnji announced his decision to retire from the post of Sarsanghachalak (RSS chief) citing age and receding health as main causes. He appointed Mohanji Bhagwat, current Sarkaryavah (general secretary), as his successor,” said a statement on the RSS website.

RSS spokesman Ram Madhav told IANS that Bhagwat, 59, would be the new RSS chief. “Sudarshanji’s request (to resign) has been accepted and Mohanji has agreed to take over,” RSS propganda chief Manmohan Vaidya added.

While the ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’ meets every year at different places in the country, the meeting is held in Nagpur, where the RSS is headquartered, every third year to hold organisational ‘elections’ for all posts except that of the ‘Sarsanghchalak’ (organisational chief).

Sudarshan has been regularly touring until recently, meeting delegations and attending public functions.

The appointment of Bhagwat is seen in the Sangh Parivar as a conscious step to promote relatively younger functionaries over the old guard.

After Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, who founded the RSS in 1925 at the age of 36, Bhagwat is the youngest RSS chief. All his immediate juniors, manning key positions in RSS, are much older to him.

Bhagwat has worked the last 30 years as a RSS “pracharak”, a term used for volunteers who work full time for the organisation and remain unmarried.

Born in Chandarpur near Nagpur in Maharashtra, Bhagwat was inducted into RSS by his father who joined it during the life time of Hedgewar.

Within RSS circles, Bhagwat is known as a look alike of the first RSS chief.

“The new RSS chief is a straight forward person with a clear vision that the RSS should stay away from party politics. His focus would be to strengthen the organisational structure,” a senior RSS pracharak who has worked closely with Bhagwat told IANS in New Delhi.

Sudarshan is the third ‘Sarsanghchalak’ to demit the office on health grounds, the others being Balasaheb Deoras and Rajendra Singh alias Rajju Bhaiyya.

An eloquent speaker known for his erudition, Sudarshan has been the most controversial RSS chief in recent years.

His harsh criticism of then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy prime pinister L.K. Advani, his plea to alter the basic structure of the Indian constitution and his appeal to Hindu women to give birth to at least three children each to counter Muslim population growth were some of the controversial positions he took publicly.

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