The BJP’s core committee may have handed Nitin Gadkari a generous clean chit on both ‘legal’ and ‘moral’ counts after its meeting on Tuesday, but he remains at the centre of visible unease in the party. More than the BJP, however, the Gadkari question continues to roil the RSS, the organisation that appointed him as BJP president three years ago, and to which he is informally accountable.
According to sources, while Nagpur may have virtually scripted the party’s show of support to Gadkari on Tuesday, it has not been quite as successful in stanching the discomfort within the Sangh over the controversial entrepreneur from Nagpur. The RSS despatched Gadkari to Delhi in December 2009 to monitor and subdue the squalling in the party’s central leadership, well before the Anna mobilisation catapulted the corruption issue to centrestage in 2011. But that is small comfort for an organisation that assiduously courts and advertises an image of above-the-political-fray incorruptibility.
The latest controversy over Gadkari’s businesses, involving serious allegations of ghost investors and shell companies, comes at the top of other episodes in which the RSS machine has tried to project distance from its favourite swayamsevak: the decision to take back tainted BSP leader Babu Singh Kushwaha ahead of the Uttar Pradesh polls, for one, or the party support, later withdrawn, to the Rajya Sabha candidature of controversial NRI businessman Anshuman Mishra in Jharkhand.
But the larger context of the current restiveness in the RSS that has gathered around the figure of Gadkari may lie in the progressive tightening of Nagpur’s control over the BJP in his tenure. While the RSS has always been the shadow behind the party, it has never been this controlling. This has cramped and constricted the BJP, a fate the unresisting party would appear to have invited upon itself. But a section of the RSS also sees it to be extracting a toll on an organisation that strenuously maintains a facade of being apolitical. It may keep denying it, but the RSS has never been as involved in the rough and tumble of party politics as it is now, or as politicised.
For the secretive organisation, its increasing power over the BJP and micro-management of its affairs comes with a downside: it is being forced to face up to the responsibility—and the brickbats—for the party’s decisions and predicaments. At the RSS’s just-concluded annual Akhil Bharatiya Karyakarini Mandal Baithak in Chennai, the