Twelve years ago, when I started covering the BJP, just poised to come to power, it was charged with energy, bursting with leaders, full of contradictions, but very alive. Imagine the disdain with which an Atal Behari Vajpayee would have treated the opinions of RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya, who has blamed the recent defeat on the abandonment of ideology! The former prime minister—the only BJP leader of that generation who will ever occupy that office—had little time for those in public life without the ability to win elections. He engaged with the RSS and the VHP only to "handle" them. In that sense, he was a great coalition-builder, the bridge between people, allies, the party and also the Sangh parivar.
There was also Pramod Mahajan, who broke all the rules, but was the great manager for the BJP and Vajpayee. He was also known for being brutally frank. I recall a late-night chat with Mahajan during the Gujarat riots. He calmly analysed that "after Muslims kill five and Hindus kill 5,000" people just live in hate, but the cycle of rioting stops because it was never an equal fight. Like Vajpayee, Mahajan never had much use for the RSS but was rumoured to dole out a monthly retainer to some members.