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The Safety Of Distance
The RSS is going through an unprecedented churning after its political offspring, the bjp, has been caught knee-deep in a slush of corruption. Usually the first to take the moral high ground, the high priests of the rss are left with nothing to defend their swayamsevaks named in the Tehelka tapes. In fact, a series of recent embarrassments caused by the actions and policies of the bjp has forced the rss leadership to reassess its relationship with the party. Sources in the Sangh say the issue came up at the three-day pratinidhi sabha held last week in Delhi.
The first indication of a planned distancing from the government came when M.S. Vaidya, official spokesperson of the rss, categorically stated that the Tehelka tapes constituted prima facie evidence and that "the government will have to take care of its administration". Vaidya also described dethroned bjp chief Bangaru Laxman as "a failed swayamsevak". This, when Laxman and swayamsevak-turned-middleman R.K. Gupta got their first ideological initiation in morning rss shakhas. The whole edifice of "high moral values" and samskar the rss preaches came crumbling down when TV sets splashed the swayamsevaks freely dealing in slush money.
Talking to Outlook, Vaidya confirmed Gupta’s proximity to the rss. "When swayamsevaks go out and do good work, the rss earns its reputation. But when someone does bad things, it does affect our image," he says. Old-timers also confirm Gupta as a regular at shakhas. He started his career as a government employee but left to start his own contract business, built the rss HQ at Jhandewalan, came into contact with former MP chief minister Virendra Saklecha and landed him in a major land scam in 1978. Saklecha was thrown out of the party and later went into oblivion. Gupta’s closeness to bjp leader K.N. Sahni is well known in Delhi’s political circles. Till recently, Sahni was a director in one of Gupta’s firms and the latter had given him a residence in Niti Bagh. His connections afforded Gupta easy access to the corridors of power.
Politically, the rss leadership is split on how much control it should wield over the bjp. The older generation finds it difficult to justify the bjp’s acts which they see as a sharp contrast to their professed ideological stand. Distancing themselves from the bjp, the old guard feels, will give the rss more scope for clear and direct criticism of bjp-ruled governments whenever required. It will save rss the blushes it faces each time it has to come to the rescue of the bjp and its "unprincipled" acts that go against its gospel.
Veterans like Moropant Pingle, Dattopant Thengari and chief K.S. Sudarshan feel the rss shouldn’t be apologetic for the misdeeds of the bjp and its leaders. "This question has been bothering us for some time. Some feel the bjp should be left on its own to deal with its problems. That would mean the end of the bjp. But hopefully the process of change will accelerate once the bjp loses power. Then some swayamsevaks now in the bjp might be recalled; some new faces may be inducted," says a functionary. The relatively younger lot want more control over the bjp. rss joint general secretary Madan Das Devi, in charge of the bjp, favours a close association. Party sources credit him with the view that proximity is the only way to wield "moral authority" over the bjp.
This dichotomy is natural. Right from the days when the bjp used every means to gain a foothold in the post-V. P. Singh era, the rss played the apologist. When Kalyan Singh inducted known history-sheeters in his cabinet, Rajju Bhaiya justified it as apad dharma. But it didn’t take long for the Sangh to get uncomfortable. Liberalisation went against its swadeshi credo; Thengari even held anti-government dharnas. A truce was hammered out between the swadeshi lobby in the rss and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The latest turmoil in the political set-up ignited by the incontrovertible evidence against influential people in the nda and the bjp is also a test case for the rss. Can it now tell the nation that the corrupt and sleazy swayamsevaks in the government are not its offspring?