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Old RSS hands dismayed by BJP feud, Jaswant sacking
Published on 3 Sep. 2009 11:19 PM IST
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Old hands in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) mostly do not approve of the ouster of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jaswant Singh and are shocked at the continuing feud in a party once known for cadre discipline. Some of them also feel the BJP should bury the unsavoury episode - of political veteran Jaswant Singh being sacked from the party - at the earliest and usher in a younger leadership. On his way back from an early morning RSS ‘shakha’, a group meeting where physical and ideological lessons are imparted to members, 78-year-old Shiv Dayal looked worried, wondering whatever happened to the party’s legendary cadre discipline. “I have been attending the shakha since 1940 and never before have I seen such fights within the party. It disappoints and saddens loyal supporters like me,” Shiv Dayal, a resident of East Delhi, told IANS. The RSS, considered the ideological parent of the BJP, is expected to play a key role in helping the party set its house in order. Many BJP members, including veterans like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, have had their grounding in RSS shakhas. So also younger ones like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his Karnataka counterpart B.S. Yeddyurappa. “It seems everyone is out to revolt. If this continues, the day is not far when the sufferings of the party will increase further,” rued Dayal, who gets up religiously at the crack of dawn every day to attend the local shakha. “Jaswant Singh should not have been ousted like this. They could have solved the problem by discussing it with him,” he said referring to the politician’s expulsion from the BJP last month. “We also discuss (at the shakhas) the condition of the BJP. It really needs to introspect,” Dayal said. Since its debacle in the April-May Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, the BJP has been plagued by serious internal bickering. Senior leaders like Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, besides of course the now expelled Jaswant Singh, have openly expressed their displeasure against the top leadership. They have also criticised the party for having no system of accountability for those responsible for the election defeat. “Disappointment at such a stage is natural. It is all a result of frustration within the party after the loss. It will take time before these things improve,” said 75-year-old Hari Kishan Gujaral, who has been attending the RSS shakha for over 40 years. Another BJP loyalist J.N. Sehgal, 82, says the current factionalism and squabbling is affecting the party’s base. “These fights are hugely discouraging for grassroots workers. It will even affect the party’s prospects in the upcoming elections,” said Sehgal. While not all have lost hope, they say the party needs to sit together and brainstorm. One such supporter J.K. Kukreja, 74, said: “Ups and downs are a part of life. But the party needs to gather itself and undertake a complete review. New leaders need to be encouraged. The party should develop a core team of workers involving people from all states to regain its strength.” On Jaswant Singh’s expulsion for his book praising Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Kukreja echoed the sentiments of several RSS men, saying: “It was just a book and it could have been ignored.” “I don’t know the contents of the book and what exactly has been written about Jinnah. But the party could have talked to Jaswant Singh. Of course, Singh should also not have come out with such a book at a time when the party is facing such serious crisis.” Kukreja said younger leaders must be brought into the RSS and the BJP, but before that they need to be trained. “Definitely, we need to bring in youngsters in both the RSS and the BJP but before that our children need to be prepared. Today in our schools, children study nothing about nationalism,” he said. “Our youngsters devote 10-15 hours a day to earn money. They should be inspired to devote an hour every day for the country,” he added. Shiv Dayal added that in the BJP there should be a “balance of youngsters and seniors to improve the state of affairs”. Gujaral said: “Youngsters should be promoted in all organisations. The RSS has even prepared a team of 70-75 young leaders, which could be drafted to the party if it wants.”

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