Performance of Gadkari, Sushma and Jaitley reviewed

Top leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday held a daylong stock-taking meeting here, in which BJP president Nitin Gadkari and senior leader L.K. Advani were present.

The meeting was called by RSS general secretary Suresh Joshi.While BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar termed it a “routine” annual meeting, it is learnt that a review was done of how the party had fared over the last six months with a new leader at the helm, and a younger leadership in control in Parliament.

The larger “challenges before the country, and specifically, the challenge to nationalism” were discussed, said a member of the BJP team. He said the RSS was particularly worried about “caste divisions tearing the country apart.”

This remark was seen as an indictment of the BJP's stand in Parliament in favour of caste enumeration through the census exercise, a stand the RSS later indirectly criticised, saying there was no need for a caste-based census. Mr. Joshi himself issued a statement clearly stating the RSS position.

Questions were raised how this contradiction came about without a discussion within the sangh parivar.

The “challenge” to “nationalism” thrown up by Hindu extremists within the saffron fold — witness the arrest of Pragnya Singh Thakur and, more recently, ‘pracharak' Devendra Gupta — has become a major source of worry, as admitted by both RSS and BJP leaders.

Apparently, the functioning of the party under its new leaders — Mr. Gadkari at the helm of the party and Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley in command in the parliamentary wing — also came up for review. Many leaders in the party believe that the long drawn-out Jharkhand episode, and, more recently, the controversy with an alliance partner in Bihar were the result of inept handling by the leadership. In Jharkhand, the party handed the State, in which it was a ruling coalition partner, to the Centre (it is currently under President's rule). In Bihar, a publicity blitzkrieg by a senior leader wanting to change his anti-Muslim image landed the party in a mess that virtually hijacked its national executive committee meeting in Patna.

Some RSS leaders are concerned that Jaswant Singh has been readmitted to the party without a word of explanation from the BJP. Mr. Singh continues to say he stands by every word in the book. The questions that are being asked by the BJP's ideological bedfellows in the sangh parivar are: Is ‘the Jinnah is secular' formulation of Mr. Advani in 2005 no longer a sore point with the RSS? Is Mr. Singh's formulation that the Congress, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru, not Jinnah, were responsible for Partition acceptable to the RSS?

The meeting was attended by all BJP Parliamentary Board members except Mr. Jaitley, who was not in Delhi, as well as two organisation secretaries of the BJP who are RSS ‘pracharaks'. From the RSS, there were four leaders: Mr. Joshi in the chair, Suresh Soni, Madan Das Devi and Dattatreya Hosbole.

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