The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh plans to oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attempts to get his close aide, Amit Shah, appointed as the Bharatiya Janata Party's next president, by arguing that it is against leaders from the same state holding the party's top two posts. Both Modi and Shah are from Gujarat.

The RSS claims to be just a cultural organisation affiliated with the ruling BJP, but it is no secret that the Hindutva group calls the shots on important appointments in the party. Now a general secretary in the party, Shah has been credited with the party's stunning performance in Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, where it won 71 out of 80 seats, almost double the incumbent Congress's all-India tally of 44.

“The Sangh reiterated its stand that it was against the idea of letting both top posts – one in the government and the other in the party – go to one state,” said a senior RSS official, who did not wish to be named.

Besides Shah, Himachal Pradesh's Jagat Prakash Nadda, another well-regarded but more low-profile general secretary, is in the running to become president, a post left vacant after the incumbent, Rajnath Singh, was named home minister. But Shah has more people pushing for him.

Last week, a senior union minister who is known to have a good rapport with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat also met top leaders of Hindu organisation and tried to explain to them why Amit Shah would be the best choice for the post of party president, the RSS leader said. But the RSS turned away the minister without giving him any assurances, he added.

The RSS fears a repeat of what happened in the late 1990s, when, under similar circumstances, both the BJP and the government slipped out of its hand.

Between 1998 and 2000 Atal Bihari Vajpayee headed the government while Kushabhau Thakre presided over the BJP. Both belonged to Madhya Pradesh and together they turned the RSS into a mute spectator, having no say in either the government or the party.

The loss of the RSS’s control, particularly over the government, was evident at the BJP's Bangalore convention in 1999. Then, Vajpayee, reacting to reservations about an insurance bill his government had drafted expressed by different constituents of the Sangh Parivar, asserted that the prime minister’s decision "was final".

This time, the problem is even more acute for the RSS. Not only do both Modi and Amit Shah belong to Gujarat, they have a much deeper bond than the one enjoyed by Vajpayee and Thakre in the late 1990s. The chances of the Gujarati duo marginalising the RSS are, therefore, much higher now.

If Amit Shah becomes the BJP president, few will be able to stop Modi from implementing at the national level what is being referred to in the RSS circles as the “Gujarat mode of the Sangh Parivar”, a model in which the RSS has little power but must organise shakhas and carry Modi’s messages and instructions to the grassroots .

Thus in Gujarat, there is no BJP, only a group of Modi supporters. Anyone who refuses to toe the line of Modi has no place in the party there. Even the RSS in the state has ceded power to to Modi.

“The fears of the RSS are genuine, but they can’t be sorted out through discussions,” the RSS leader said. “In fact, they can’t be sorted out at all.”

Clearly, the RSS has latched on to its "no-two-leaders-from-one-state" argument in a desperate attempt to prevent Modi from foisting Amit Shah as president of the BJP. On the face of it, the argument appears principled but it conceals the real fears of the RSS.

But neither Modi nor the RSS seem ready to relent. “The deadlock is so acute that there is a strong possibility of this issue being deferred to after the Budget session of Parliament,” said a BJP leader, who declined to be named.

At the same time, the RSS is silently trying to ensure that the BJP remains under its full control in days to come. Insiders say Sangh confidant Ram Lal, who is the BJP general secretary in charge of organisation, has already started preparing a list of candidates who should be part of the party’s new executive committee, which will  be constituted once the deadlock ends and the next president takes charge.

Even the appointment on June 13 of Sunil Bansal as the BJP general secretary in charge of organisation in Uttar Pradesh was made keeping this object in mind, the insiders said.

Bansal, who had been active in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the BJP's student wing, for more than two decades, is considered to be close to the Sangh. His appointment to such a central position in a state that has assumed an extremely significant position in the Sangh’s scheme of things is being seen as a critical gambit by the RSS to prevent the BJP from slipping out of its hand.