Ananth Kumar's induction into Narendra Modi’s cabinet yesterday is the result of a swirl of backroom negotiations between the new prime minster and the the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Sangh leaders first wanted the Karnataka heavyweight to replace Rajnath Singh as president of the BJP, according to highly placed RSS officials. But when Modi declared his reservations about this, hectic talks ensued to make sure that each side got something it wanted.

Kumar is known in the BJP for his strong political instincts and for having his ear close to the ground. He was part of the inner circle of the central leadership during the heyday of both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani. Last year, his hostile relationship with BJP leader Yeddyurappa had led him to fiercely oppose the return of the former Karnataka chief minister to the party. But Modi had his way and despite all of Kumar’s efforts, Yeddyurappa rejoined the BJP.

In addition to having strong ties with the BJP, Kumar has long been considered a member of the Advani camp. Although he is said to have tried to shift his loyalty and become close to Modi once the equation in the BJP changed and Advani fell from favour, a gap has continued to exist between Kumar and the Gujarati leader. As a result, Modi wasn’t keen to have him as BJP president.

Once the name of JP Nadda, the senior BJP leader from Himachal Pradesh, came up for the post of the BJP president, Modi readily accepted it, and in return agreed to accommodate Ananth Kumar in his cabinet, these officials said.

From Modi’s point of view, Nadda is just the kind of person he would like to have as party head. The two have worked closely in the past, when Modi was the BJP official in charge of Himachal Pradesh. In 1998, Nadda and Modi are said to have played a crucial role in the formation of the BJP-Himachal Vikas Party coalition government in the state. Known for his organisational skills and oratory, Nadda entered the national politics in 2012 when he became the national general secretary of the party. He also enjoys good rapport with the RSS. By getting a BJP president who is unlikely to ignore his wishes, Modi will be able to consolidate his grip over the BJP.

“What the RSS now has to understand is that it is at the moment in a weak position,” said a BJP official on condition of anonymity. “It needs Modi more than Modi needs it. To get what it wants, it will have to learn to coexist with Modi.”