IT looks as if the RSS has openly come out to appoint its nominees at different places of governance. If one were to look around in the country, the BJP, a political wing of the RSS, has already taken over most of the country. The presidential election is only a few months away. Yet again, the names tossed around for the top position are from the RSS parivar.
Today, there are as many as nine chief ministers of the BJP or, for that matter, the RSS pracharaks. They are: Manoharlal Khattar of Haryana, Trivendra Singh Rawat of Uttarakhand, Biren Singh of Manipur, Devendra Fadnavis of Maharashtra, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Mandya Pradesh, Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh, Manohar Parrikar of Goa, Raghubar Das of Jharkand and the latest to join the list of RSS pariva is Adityanath Yogi of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India with 80 Lok Sabha seats.
Above all, the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an ardent RSS pracharak. He came into limelight after instigating riots in Gujarat where he was at the helm of affairs. When he became Prime Minister in 2014, he saw to it that the committed people from the RSS would occupy important positions of governance, both at the centre and in the states. When he began the stint at the Centre, he did not give the impression of toeing the line of the RSS but as the days went by, he gradually showed his true colours. He brought in Amit Shah, his Man Friday, and foisted him as president of the party. But it must be said to his credit that the BJP swept through to power in the country with 72 Lok Sabha seats from UP alone. Shah was instrumental in helping the BJP and its allies win 325 seats out of 403 in the state.
The sweep in UP has helped the BJP gain a sizeable number in the Rajaya Sabha and with the party’s two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha, the presidential election looks a mere formality. Indeed, this gives the kind of confidence to both BJP and the RSS that whoever they put up as their candidate, there will be hardly any opposition. Even if there is a slight resistance from some of the non-BJP parties, it will only in name.
The names that are doing the rounds include LK Advani and Jaswant Sinha, former Finance Minister. Advani is a heavier name since he founded the BJP when the Janata Party was breaking up in 1980 soon after Mrs Indira Gandhi returned to power. She punished the BJP members with vengeance. Sinha, a former bureaucrat, has vast experience. Both seem to be dear to the public. There are also sympathizers within the party who favour their candidature because they have been sidelined since the advent of Modi. However, the ultimate choice of the presidential candidate will depend on the Prime Minister. He is keeping cards close to his chest and allowing party to debate on different names. Modi will definitely want a person who will be at his command. Two names that have emerged do not seem to fit into scheme of things which Modi has in mind.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is too young and Prime Minister needs him in Cabinet and, among other things, he is very effective speaker in both the houses. Home Minister Rajnath Singh wanted to be the chief minister of UP. But now that Yogi is well entrenched as the state chief minister, Rajnath Singh might be looking at this coveted position. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who has conducted the house in an orderly way, is also being spoken about as an appropriate candidate.
The ideal choice would be a candidate who is apolitical, popular and experienced. Pranab Mukherjee was selected as President because he was the hatchet man of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The other reason for his elevation was that he was seen as an obstacle to Rahul Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister. However, Mukherjee was not above controversy either. As a head of state he should not have published his memoirs while in office.
Political parties were reluctant to criticise him because he is the constitutional head, as much theirs as that of those who elected him. Pranab Mukherjee has violated the demand of office by publishing his memoirs when he is still the President of India. Even Giani Zail Singh, former President, was without blemish. He installed Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister even before the Congress parliament party had elected him as leader. Unfortunately, Rahul Gandhi has failed to make any impact while occupying the No. 2 position as vice-president of the Congress. Sonia Gandhi still has the tag of being an Italian. And, therefore, ruled out as effective support for any other candidate put up by opposition parties for the top position.
The communists are not taken seriously because of their dwindling strength in the country. They have gradually been losing ground even in those states where they held sway until some years ago. The regional parties expect for the Nitish Kumar led alliance in Bihar and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, hardly matter. All these leave the field wide open for the BJP or the candidate which RSS recommends, to make it to Rashtrapati Bhavan. There is every reason to believe that the next President would be a person from the BJP-RSS stable.
This would not really represent the real sentiment of the people. They would want a person who would translate their aspirations. Rulers of different political parties will have to sink their differences and cast their net wide so as to catch the prize fish. Unfortunately, there is none available in the political field at this moment. The alternative can be an academician, a scientist, a jurist or someone else who has excelled in his field with the knowledge of political affairs. But that doesn’t seem to happen.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.