New Delhi: BJP-RSS relations have seen worse than the Nitin Gadkari mess, but this must nevertheless be soon and comprehensively resolved if both organizations are to be saved. Gadkari must resign to restore BJP’s image before the next general elections and not wait out the end of his first term. Whilst a second term for Nitin Gadkari would be disastrous for BJP with a government probe unlikely to clear his name, an immediate resignation would upset Congress plans of moral equivalence with the principal opposition. The BJP president to succeed Nitin Gadkari must be elected, and the so-called central core group of L.K.Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar must not be permitted for one of their own to get the job, and gain the upper hand in the nomination of the party’s prime minister candidate. It is amply clear that Nitin Gadkari has been stabbed in the back by his own party rivals, but he is beyond revival all the same.

It is well-known that RSS’s second chief, M.S.Golwalkar, was resistant to Balasaheb and Bhaurao Deoras’s idea of a Sangha-backed political party. The Deoras brothers left RSS and rejoined only after Golwalkar agreed to the Jana Sangha, for which senior RSS volunteers like Deen Dayal Upadhyay, A.B.Vajpayee and L.K.Advani were loaned. Upadhyay’s accidental death and Vajpayee’s indifferent stewardship of the party passed the leadership to Advani, who brought the party in its new BJP avatar to the mainstream. Less Hindutva than Vajpayee’s inclusive image and the mass sentiment to give him a chance as PM ensured a six-year, two-term NDA government, which by most accounts was successful and clean compared to the successive corrupt UPA.

RSS has always had the theoretical option of shutting down BJP. Golwalkar’s original plan was to run Jana Sangha for a time and scrap it when it became an encumbrance. History had other schemes. As RSS chief, Balasaheb Deoras took keen interest in BJP’s future, and Rajendra Singh (Rajju Bhaiyya), the first sarsangchalak from North India, took the organization’s political alignment with BJP into new dimensions, shifting his headquarters from Nagpur to Delhi. His successor, V.S.Sudershan, went even further, interfering in the day-to-day affairs of Vajpayee’s government, angering the PM. Because of Vajpayee’s stature, Sudershan had to back off, and although Advani is practically of the same vintage, he does not get similar respect from RSS. RSS distrusts him, is unhappy with his unbridled PM ambitions, and it is troubled with his ideological deviations, such as his approval of M.A.Jinnah’s supposed secularism.

RSS has realized that it has lost more than gained by being closely identified with the NDA regime. Because of its political identification with BJP, its pre-dominant ideology of organizing Hindu society is anathema to anti-BJP parties. Whilst previously, RSS drew powerful sympathy within Congress and other mainline parties, this declined and evaporated with BJP-RSS proximity. At various times, RSS leaders have admitted the downside of openly aligning with BJP. After all, RSS backed Congress after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and this contributed to Rajiv Gandhi’s landslide victory in the 1984 polls. Indeed, a section within RSS believes the Ram Mandir issue wouldn’t have become contentious but for the Congress-BJP rivalry. The other effect of close ties with BJP is the spillover of political corruption into RSS. During the NDA regime, RSS often issued moral warnings to BJP, but it had no effect on powerbrokers like Pramod Mahajan. After the 2004 defeat, RSS wanted Advani, Sushma Swaraj, etc, to re-establish contact with the rank and file, but the plea fell on deaf ears.

The subsequent BJP decline is a product of disenchantment of RSS cadres with the party’s culture and outlook. RSS leaders have tried and failed to prevent the Congressization of BJP, and RSS cadres have been increasingly unwilling to work for a bastardized party. The famed RSS discipline has also been affected by BJP culture, with the rot striking RSS at the critical level of pracharaks. Off and on, RSS has spoken of delinking from BJP, or at least, that is the official line. But it is never so in practice. For example, if BJP has to grow, its president must be elected. But RSS has resisted this, fearing an elected BJP president would make the party autonomous from the Sangha Parivaar. RSS brought in Nitin Gadkari from Maharashtra to have its loyalist head BJP and prevent either the central cabal or Narendra Modi in Gujarat from capturing the party. But with Nitin Gadkari’s shady businesses exposed, RSS finds itself with its back to the wall. It can only endanger itself and BJP by continuing with Gadkari.

In the circumstances, Gadkari has to go. But at the same time, BJP cannot be seized by L.K.Advani & Co. who have been unable to take on the corrupt and venal UPA. The way out is to call for BJP presidential elections, and leave the victor to chart the course for the party preferably away from RSS. This would assist RSS to return to its core competence, and position BJP to be an independent, genuine, non-dynastic alternative to Congress. Nature puts stark limits on parenting. RSS has to let go of BJP in adulthood.