LK Advani has thumbed his nose at the RSS. One day after RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat made known that Advani on his birthday, last Sunday, would announce his early retirement plan, the former RSS spokesman Ram Madhav advised the press that Advani would wait for Rajnath Singh to demit the party president’s post in December and only then retire, probably in February. Newspapers were quick to conclude that the RSS had served final notice to Advani through this press briefing.
The newspapers were wrong. The final notice by RSS had been issued a day earlier by Bhagwat himself when he confirmed that Advani would make an announcement on Sunday. The Ram Madhav press briefing was a move by Advani’s supporters to pre-empt the RSS. Madhav is no longer the official spokesman of the RSS. He has shifted ground and is now firmly in the Advani camp. His press briefing allowed Advani to continue his enigmatic silence and make Bhagwat’s statement end up once again as a damp squib. Subsequently Madhav retracted from his statements to the press to prevent RSS reprimands.
A few days later unnamed confidantes of Advani advised TV channels that by publicly precluding BJP central leaders from the succession stakes he had crossed the Laxman Rekha. TV anchors opined that the latest standoff was not between Advani and Rajnath Singh but between Advani and Bhagwat himself. Next, a media commentator who acts as the BJP insider on TV channels publicly rubbished Bhagwat’s indiscretions. And in the clincher a columnist well versed in the pulls and pressures inside the BJP wrote that the time had come for the BJP and RSS to part company.
It is difficult to predict how this messy situation in the BJP will resolve itself. RSS loyalists are confident that Bhagwat very soon will expel the top BJP leadership to coincide with the end of the presidential term of Rajnath Singh in December. Their confidence could be misplaced. There is no rational explanation of why Advani’s removal does not take place immediately, if it is at all achievable.
The bottom line is that the RSS has the cadres. But RSS leaders display little skill in the exercise of political strategy as required in inner party functioning. And with the growing relevance of mass politics coupled with money-power the earlier electoral importance of cadres may well diminish if not disappear. Despite the faith in the power of the RSS that the BJP rank and file may have, it would be rash and premature to write off LK Advani just yet.