The search for a new leader

The search for a new leader

Kesav Baliram Hegdewar founded RSS in 1925, when he was only 36 years old, and his successor and, perhaps, the most influential of all RSS ‘Sarsanghchalak’ to date, M S Golwalkar,  headed the organisation at the age of 35, nourishing and shaping it for the next 33 years.

Times have changed for the RSS as much as for it’s political arm - the BJP - with the leaders well beyond their ripe age continuing to steer the organisations. K S Sudarshan, 74,  handed over the reins of the RSS to Mohan Bhagwat, 59, in March this year. The incumbent RSS chief, incidentally, is the second youngest ‘Sarsanghchalak’ after Golwalkar.   Faced with an unenviable task of setting the “on fire” BJP house in order, Bhagwat did not leave anyone guessing that he would favour younger leadership in the saffron party.

Asked whether he was keen on younger leaders guiding the party, Bhagwat emphasised his point of view by saying that “Fifty to sixty years is the average age for the Sangh leadership, and it’s for the political party (BJP) to decide what should be the right age for it.”

In characteristic Sangh style, the RSS chief dropped low-key hints for the BJP leaders, particularly veteran L K Advani, who is 82, to call it quits, if not immediately, at least in a phased, “honourable manner.” If there are many seasoned BJP leaders, who do not fit in the 50 to 60 age bracket, there are just as many who do and waiting in the wings for the big leap to the BJP centre stage, if only asked by the Nagpur establishment.


Parrikar’s parikrama
Parrikar, an IIT graduate with RSS roots and a reasonably clean image, may be taken in the Central team. “He may or may not be tipped for the party President post but could always assume charge of general secretary and some other key party position,” say insiders, pointing out that leaders from outside the privileged “Delhi circle” would be accorded enough space in the future power structure in the BJP.
While Gadkari, understandably, played down that he may be shortlisted for services at the Centre, Parrikar could not be contacted for his reaction as he is away on a tour to the USA.

CMs out of race

Shivaraj Singh Chauhan, 50, who is well entrenched as chief minister in Madhya Pradesh, is also seen as a probable who could join “the new team” of the Central leadership. The party think tank, however, is against “disturbing” the State BJP chief ministers (including Gujarat CM Narendra Modi).

NDA sadasya

No single, undisputed name has emerged for the party chief’s post, who fulfills the criteria of being young, “unattached” and with a good mix of ideological commitment and down-to-earth approach to organisational as well as national issues. The new president has also to fit-in the coalition philosophy and be acceptable to “the larger NDA Parivar”, besides the Sangh Parivar.
It is, however, certain that some of the time-beaten party leaders would hand over the steering wheel of the party to the new faces. The new inductions apart, the restructured power block in the BJP, however, cannot shake off some of the familiar faces, already occupying key posts in the party hierarchy.

Raje to Delhi

Former chief minister of Rajasthan and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Vasundhra Raje may be moved to the Centre, if she relents and quits her current post as demanded by party President Rajnath Singh. The first woman chief minister of Rajasthan, Raje, 56, is not very keen to move to Delhi, leaving her home turf open to her opponents in the party.  

Rajnath vs Sushma

Singh, the party President, is due to demit office by the year end. He is part of anti-Advani-Arun Jaitley group and would be happy if is able to retain part of his political clout in the new arrangement. The Thakur from Uttar Pradesh is aspiring to be Leader of Opposition (LOOP) in the Lok Sabha after Advani’s exit.

Jaitley jockeying?

Arun Jaitley, a Brahmin, is LOOP in the Rajya Sabha but eyeing the post of party president. He has never contested Lok Sabha polls and is opposed by a section that sees him as a “Delhi-centric leader” lacking in “mass base”. A party strategist, Jaitley, 57, will continue to occupy a key place in the party affairs but does not appeal to many as party president.

Sushma’s stakes

Sushma Swaraj, who is Deputy leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, is seen as a strong contender for the position of LOOP in Lok Sabha. Swaraj, 57, would remain important in the saffron scheme of things but is unlikely to be launched as new party president.

Naidu’s chips down 

Venkaiah Naidu, 60, former BJP president and Rajya Sabha member, will be part of the so called “collective leadership” but may not have as much clout as he had during his mentor Advani’s time.

Apte as advisor

Balavant alias Bal Apte is a senior party leader and Rajya Sabha member from Maharashtra. At 69, Apte may have crossed the age limit set by the RSS but he is set to play a definitive role in a “broad based advisory panel” proposed by the RSS.

Joshi’s josh

And last but not the least, Lok Sabha MP from Varanasi Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, would be active and ‘effective’ with the fade-out of his arch rival Advani. The former BJP president, now 75, may be tipped for LOOP in the Lok Sabha, if circumstances do not favour Swaraj. A votary of Hindutva, Joshi may make a comeback once Advani takes a back seat in party affairs. When would that happen “in real terms” is the question no one in the BJP is willing to answer, not even the 82-year-old patriarch himself. 

Manohar Parrikar, 54, Leader of Opposition in Goa assembly and Nitin Gadkari, 52, the BJP Maharashtra unit President, lead the regional satraps, who could be brought to the Centre if so desired by the RSS and “the collective leadership” of the saffron party.

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