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Why did Sangh invite Pranab for RSS meet

Wednesday, June 06, 2018
By Arati Jerath

Analysts and commentators have failed to ask the question that should be asked about the RSS invitation to Pranab Mukherjee. Why did the Sangh choose a former Congressman, a committed Nehruvian and an Indira Gandhi loyalist to address its trainee pracharaks in Nagpur?

According to an RSS watcher, the answer to the puzzle lies in Rahul Gandhi’s increasingly sharp attacks on the Sangh and its ideology. The invitation, says this watcher, is meant as a snub to Rahul, to counter his anti-RSS propoganda. The RSS top brass wants to prove to the Gandhi scion (and those who may be influenced by his tweets and speeches) that the organisation has wider acceptability than he is trying to project. After all, if Rahul’s grandmother’s loyalist can attend an RSS function, it shows that the Hindu outfit is not untouchable.

The untouchability tag is something that the RSS is very touchy about, ever since it was banned after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. The organisation’s top brass is concerned that the Gandhi scion is trying to revive the hostility of that era with his virulent criticism of RSS ideology.

It is equally interesting that Mukherjee decided to accept the RSS invitation. Being a shrewd politician, he must be aware of the ramifications of his decision in the context of Rahul’s frequent attacks on the Sangh. Maybe he too, in his own way, wants to send a subtle message to Rahul that no political party or organisation should be treated as untouchable in a democracy.

It should be remembered that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat visited Mukherjee several times during the latter’s stint in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Apparently, the two had lunch together on more than one occasion after the Modi government came to power in 2014. When the Pranab Mukherjee Foundation was launched, Bhagwat was one of the VIP invitees. So the two share a history of exchanging ideas and thoughts.

BJP circles buzzing with speculation
BJP circles are buzzing with speculation over who will take the rap for the party’s third consecutive loss in a Lok Sabha by-poll in UP: the BJP’s powerful organisational secretary Sunil Bansal or its best known Hindutva icon and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath?

Apparently, one of the chief reasons for the BJP’s losses in Gorakhpur and Phulpur is public anger against the Yogi government on a variety of issues. This is what internal inquiries by the RSS and BJP have found. The loss in Kairana is probably due to the same reason.

The internal inquiries also identified the leading cause for the poor performance of Yogi’s government and the accompanying negative publicity is the tussle between Bansal and Yogi. Bansal, as organisational secretary, is a staunch RSS man and has Nagpur’s backing. But Yogi is the BJP’s most effective brand ambassador for Hindutva after Modi. This may or may not be true in UP but outside the state, he is a star campaigner for the party in communally sensitive regions.

Although Yogi defers to Bansal on most issues, his camp has started blaming the organisational secretary for using the CM as a shield to take the flak.

Now that the BJP has suffered a third electoral defeat at the hands of an SP-BSP alliance that has now been joined by RLD, the party and the RSS will have to take a serious relook at the Bansal-Yogi tussle. There is some talk that Bansal could be shifted from UP to Rajasthan. But his backers in the RSS are reluctant to let him leave UP which is critical to Modi’s electoral fortunes in 2019.
Nitish, Lalu patch-up on cards
In the light of Nitish Kumar’s obvious discomfort with his BJP allies in Bihar, old socialist well-wishers of Nitish and Lalu Yadav have stepped up efforts for a patch-up between the two leaders.

Apparently, old friends of the two have been talking to Lalu to persuade him to give Nitish a soft landing should he decide to walk out of his alliance with the BJP and go in for a fresh assembly election simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls.

Their argument is that if Nitish breaks with the BJP, it will be a huge blow to Modi and Amit Shah. Of course, JD(U) spokesman K C Tyagi is strenuously denying all such speculation but the political grapevine continues to buzz and the Socialist gang continues to hope that the two will eventually patch up before the 2019 election.

While Lalu has not said much on the proposal from old friends, it seems his son and political heir Tejaswi is not at all keen on a patch-up. Remember, Nitish had made him the reason for his decision to dump RJD and ally with the BJP. At that time, there were allegations of corruption against Tejaswi. Although Tejaswi met Nitish to explain his side of the story, the chief minister was disinclined to accept his version. Nitish was more concerned with maintaining his Mr Clean image. It seems Tejaswi still harbours deep resentment against Nitish because of this.

Pradip Bhandari, new pollster on block
There’s a new pollster on the block who seems to have a 100% record of accurate election predictions. Pradip Bhandari of Jankibaat was one of the few who did an exit poll for the Kairana by election and predicted a crushing defeat for the BJP.

This is the 12th election in which Bhandari has scored a bull’seye. Even for Karnataka, he was spot on, with a prediction of 104 seats for the BJP.

There was a time when Today’s Chanakya was the leading pollster but after his blunder in Bihar in the 2015 assembly elections, his reputation has taken a hit. My Axis took his place but slipped on Karnataka. It had predicted a majority or near majority for the Congress in the state.

The space on top is thus vacant and Bhandari’s Jankibaat is working hard to fill it.

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