There is a lesser known story about the alleged bugging incident at Nitin Gadkari’s residence that needs to be told. Some days before the news became public, the Union road transport and highways minister had a meeting with the top brass of the RSS in New Delhi. The former BJP president, known for his proximity to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, expressed apprehensions that top leaders in the party, including himself, were being snooped upon. Gadkari conveyed to the men from Nagpur that he was not the only one, but that other senior party leaders and at least two senior ministers in the Narendra Modi government were being constantly monitored.
It was at this time that Bhagwat intervened and asked Gadkari to deny the snooping incident in public suggesting that it would dent the image of the BJP and the prime minister. The party had come to power with an absolute majority, and this would have given the opposition an easy handle to beat it with. It was after this meeting that the RSS also communicated to senior BJP leaders, including the two Union ministers, to not give much credence to such incidents and concentrate on the larger issues at hand. “It has taken us years and concerted efforts to come to power; let internal rivalry not sabotage it for us. We are gaining momentum in the country and nothing should be said and done which could harm our chances of taking over Maharashtra, Haryana and garnering a majority in the byelections in Uttar Pradesh,” was the unofficial word. The following day, despite contradictory statements by the chief conspiracy theorist of the party, Subramanian Swamy, that Gadkari’s residence was indeed bugged, the latter himself issued a denial. Union home minister Rajnath Singh was forced to issue an anodyne statement in the Rajya Sabha that the story was at best speculative.
However, if party insiders are to be believed, with the exception of finance minister Arun Jaitley and party president Amit Shah, many BJP leaders are upset with the supremacy of one individual over the entire party. In fact, the rumbling over the micro-management of the PMO began within days of the NDA government assuming power when Rajnath Singh’s aides were accused of leaking information about cabinet portfolios to the media, forcing him to cut off all communications with the media, including on-record statements. In fact, in a conversation with this journalist, a senior minister remarked, “Ab toh hamare secretary bhi hamare nahin hai, yeh bhi hum par thope jaate hain (Even our secretaries and advisors are imposed on us, we do not have any decision-making power).”
Another incident which went viral across political circles was the imposition of a dress code on information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar, giving further taste of the tight control the Modi dispensation had over ministers. Javadekar was on his way to take a flight for a conference in Kenya, dressed casually in a pair of denims and T-shirt. He was barely a kilometre from his official residence when he apparently received a phone call from someone in the PMO, reprimanding him for his casual sense of dressing. What bothered Javadekar was the thought that somebody was keeping a tab on his movements and giving minute-by-minute information to the PMO.
It’s not surprising then that post taking over as the new BJP chief, Shah handpicked his own political team with absolutely no interference or advice from the top brass. Within days, the BJP in-charge for the four states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Assam were changed by Shah who has sought absolute independence from Modi should he wish a repeat of the party’s performance in Uttar Pradesh. Shah’s shrewd political manoeuvring, consolidation of the Jats and OBCs in Uttar Pradesh with ground-level polarisation by pracharaks and ABVP workers handpicked for the state resulted in what was one of the BJP’s best ever LS polls performance in the state.
Those close to the BJP chief say that Shah was very keen on the induction of former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa in the core team despite the reluctance of senior leaders in the RSS and the BJP, including Ananth Kumar. Shah’s position of absolute power granted to him by his political mentor, Narendra Modi, ensured that the detractors kept their counsel vis-a-vis his decision. Yediyurappa’s track record of creating communal tension in Karnataka—letting right-wing fringe elements spread the false notion of a ‘love jehad’—was single-handedly responsible for allowing communalism (besides nepotism) to flourish in the state.
But Shah, riding on the ‘man of the match’ honour bestowed on him at the recently held national council, is in no mood to be affected by the perceptions of the leaders picked by him. Much to the embarrassment of senior leaders present at the national council, Modi had made it clear that the victory was a result of the partnership with his confidant from Gujarat (with whom he had run a successful innings for three terms in the state).
These statements did not go down well with the RSS whose covert support to the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement had set the ball rolling for the BJP in the country. At a raksha bandhan gathering right after, Bhagwat took a dig at Modi saying, “Kuchh log bol rahe hain ki party ko safalta mili. Kuch log bol rahe hain ki koi vyakti ke liye jeet mili. Koi vyakti, party ya sangathan ki wajah se yeh parivartan nahin hua. Aam aadmi ne parivartan chaaha (Some people say the success was due to the party. Some others say it was because of some individuals. Fact is the common man wanted change). The same individuals and the party existed earlier also. Why were not they voted to power? It is the people who wanted change and brought the party to power,” Bhagwat asserted.
But Bhagwat, even with his tested Hindu rashtra rhetoric, is increasingly losing hold over the PMO unlike what his predecessors had over the Vajpayee regime. The appointment of Smriti Irani as HRD minister whose claim to a degree from Yale has made her the target of attacks in the party’s inner circles has been a sharp indicator of Modi’s iron fist rule. As a pracharak known for his proximity to Bhagwat says caustically, “Irani was a leader handpicked by the PM. The fact that the RSS, known for its hold on the HRD in the past government, could not interfere doesn’t leave much to the imagination.”
The simmering disquiet at the one-man show is palpable, but there is little the stalwarts and senior leaders can do about it. At political dinners, the target of humour is a senior cabinet minister who has spoken about a fear of travelling in an official chopper. Rajnath Singh, who in the past has spoken of sadbhavana between the two communities and is a regular at tea parties with leaders of the Muslim community in UP, recently commented at an inter-party meeting that he was finding it increasingly awkward that despite coming to power in the name of development, members of the party were giving statements or seen endorsing communally polarising incidents. The home minister has found himself in an awkward and isolated space, much like his senior party colleagues, with absolute irreverence shown to his suggestion. Bhagwat and the RSS could well reap the fruits of the majoritarian experiment, but the party over which they claimed dominance is slipping from their hold.
(Rana Ayyub’s 2010 investigation into the Gujarat fake encounters for Tehelka led to Amit Shah’s incarceration.)
Rana Ayyub in her column So Who’s Inside the Sanctum Sanctorum? (Aug 1) says Modi is a control freak in the mould of Stalin and that there is paranoia in government circles. It’s sickos like Ms Ayyub who are getting paranoid.
Suresh Jois, on e-mail
Ayyub seems to know more about the happenings in the RSS than the RSS itself.
A.K. Ghai, Mumbai
Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel—two Gujaratis—dominated Congress and national politics for some three decades. With Modi and Amit Shah, national politics is again aglow with Gujarati colours.
Renu Ramchandani, Adipur
Reading Ms Ayyub will keep us amused for at least the five years before the next elections. If there was a point to the article, I missed it.
Ram Lala, Kavutaram
There is little doubt that Modi is the prime architect of the BJP’s overwhelming election victory. His ascent was treacherous. At every turn, he faced adversaries within the party, whom he outmanoeuvred. He proved himself a good communicator and orator, and through the print, broadcast and social media, disseminated his image of a strongman and a man of development. He made no special effort to reach out to the minorities as ‘secular’ politicians are wont to. Despite this, his election campaign won good results for his party even in minority-dominated pockets. The nation’s need for a genuine statesman has realised itself in Modi and the overwhelming force of this phenomenon cleared all the obstacles on its destined path to glory.
Buddhadev Nandi, Bishnupur
Hooray to the Gujarati spirit! My friend, a Maharashtrian and an academician of repute, often tells me, a Gujarati, that he wishes every Indian were a Gujarati at least in spirit.
Ravi Patel, Vadodara
There’s nothing new about the arteries of the BJP being replete with RSS cells. Prime minister Narendra Modi will wield control over his ministers and the hierarchs of the government machinery, down to the lowest levels. And he will be unfailingly guided and backed by the RSS.
C. Chandrasekaran, Madurai
Ms Ayyub’s article has been categorised as National/Opinion. Methinks that should have been Creative/ Fantasy.
Abhijit Kane, Mumbai
Modi has emerged not only as a strong leader but also as an administrator par excellence. Under the watchful eye of the prime minister’s office, government functionaries are at last experiencing discipline and making a beginning at proactive governance.
Parshuram Gautampurkar, Sawai Madhopur
From reading Ms Ayyub, it seems George Orwell’s 1984 has come to India three decades too late. The irony of Indian politics is that, as in Gujarat, across the nation too, it is the stature, popularity and political acumen of Modi that is able to keep the fringe elements of the saffron brigade under control.
Rajiv Chopra, Jammu
She spins a bad fairy tale.
Naveen Dighe, on e-mail
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
The corruption plank overwhich Congresss was outscored in LS polls, now haunts BJP rule through the latest judicial verdict.
Sir, you may be right and same time you may not be right reason is Modi campigned against Congress curroption but fact is people gave him mandate to keep Seculars in "Check"....
So whatever SC says it doesnt matter for atleast RW's all they want is here after Seculars must be kept away from coming to power.
That the arteries of BJP are replete with RSS cells is nothing new. Vajpayee himself had to be content with showering advices for Ramrajya, when Babri Masjid was demolished during KalyanSingh's rule. That Singh is rewarded with a gubernatorial boqueut reaffirms that the remote lies with RSS.So is the undisputed clout of persons who otherwise are mired in all sorts of controversies, be it AmitShah, or Yediyurappa. The corruption plank overwhich Congresss was outscored in LS polls, now haunts BJP rule through the latest judicial verdict.With Modi's slogan of Zero Defect and Zero Effect permeating into the political clouds, the onus of his likely weeding out corrupt ministers, of course the numbers are more, has raised huge expectations amongst crores of voters. How many heads are to be rolled? and how many bad apples are to be thrown away from the ministerial basket? It is a litmus test for the PM and surely RSS, the back seat driver will guide him unfailingly !
For those morons who have been plugging that illiterate Sreenivasan Jain's NDTV program "Truth vs Hype" to refute love jihad, here is a scholarly take down of these propagandists.
The PM Modi ji has emerged not only a strong leader but an administrator of highest calibre ( hardly expected by many of so called big leaders within and outside party) who knows well how to run the Govt.and to see that it`s ministers, no matter what portfolio,seniority or juniority they enjoy, do work the way,he desires in best interest of nation and it`s subject. Modi ji`s style of working is being endorsed and well supported by RSS,probably it being following their pholosphy. Since the officers in the govt.during past regime, to some extent, had gone bit lathargic,immune to scam and scandles taking place then ,but now being made to work commensurate to their official status , have gone bit uneasy. Similar is the position with the ministers. They must have experienced strictness and discipline in their conduct and working under the direct watchful eyes of PMO, bit difficult. However,if they really want to work in the interest of nation ,things would go normal with the passing time. Of course , their continuence on their seats would depend much on performances ,as has appeared several times from the PM`s statements. Yet, what has happened with Prakash Javdekar is indeed amazing.
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