RSS wants Advani to go

Mohan Bhagwat suggests a younger leadership to take over the BJP reins

RSS wants Advani to go

“Fifty to sixty years is the average age for the Sangh (RSS) leadership and it’s for the political party (BJP) to decide what should be the right age for it,” RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said on Friday when asked if he favoured a leadership change in the BJP.
Bhagwat, who was the RSS chief coordinator with the BJP during the period of the NDA government, was addressing an unusual press conference at the Jhandewalan office of the outfit in the capital on Friday. Seldom do RSS chiefs hold a press conference.
Bhagwat’s press conference was therefore considered very significant as it came in the midst of deepening crisis in the BJP.

Cautious and very diplomatic as he fielded questions from mediapersons at the crowded press conference, the RSS chief persistently avoided naming any BJP leader from the 50-60 age group to head the party. All that he would say was “we don’t give unsolicited advice.” The BJP leaders “are all seniors, we are children” and, therefore, they “are capable” of deciding on the leadership.

However, Bhagwat said:“If they (BJP) ask for our advice, we always say yes to them as they are better equipped to take political decisions.” But the BJP has to “think and decide” its own future, “Whatever more has to be done will be done by the party,” he said. 

Public position

The RSS chief’s refrain is in line with the consistently maintained public position that the RSS was an “apolitical organisation” and it did not believe in involving itself in the day-to-day affairs of the BJP, its political arm. But he hoped that the BJP would “rise from ashes”.

The carefully chosen words of Bhagwat have put enormous pressure on Advani, who is in the line of fire from several party elders. Moreover, the RSS chief virtually condoned Arun Shourie, who has mounted an attack on Advani. Asked about the Shourie’s outburst against the incumbent party leadership, Bhagwat said he “is a very senior” and respected intellectual.

While Bhagwat said the RSS was leaving it to the BJP to decide the choice of the party leadership, privately he is deeply involved in finding a way out of the present crisis. Advani has met him and party president Rajnath Singh had a long meeting with him on Thursday.

And, with his suggestion for a generational change in the leadership, powerful second-rung party leaders in the 50-60 age-group like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu rushed to the Jhandewalan office during the day for closed-door meeting with the RSS boss. Among others in the age-group are Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

The broad prescription is not just bad for Advani, who is 83, it is also bad for the likes of Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha. Nor has the RSS any relief for expelled leader Jaswant Singh who stepped up his attack on Advani during the day.

On the Jinnah controversy raised by Jaswant, he said: “It is history. He led Pakistan by his direct action saying Hindus and Muslims can not live together.”  The RSS leader skirted the question on banning Singh’s book on Jinnah saying he has not read the book. On another question he said all leaders—Nehru, Patel—are “respectable.”

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