Retention of Bhaiyaji Joshi as the executive head of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh marks the beginning of a new phase in the organisation’s relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There are enough indications that the RSS, after ensuring a third term for Joshi as against Dattatreya Hosabale, the other contender who is considered close to Modi, seems set to take necessary steps for establishing a better grip over the Bharatiya Janata Party and its government at the centre.

Bhaiyaji Joshi, who is seen as the action man of the Sangh, is a Maharashtrian Brahmin born in Indore in 1947. In terms of age, he is the seniormost leader in the RSS, being nearly two years older than even its head, Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarsanghchalak. And in terms of authority, despite being technically number two, his words are considered final in the closed door meetings of the RSS office-bearers. He became a pracharak in 1975 and led the Sangh at places like Thane, Dhule, Jalgaon and Nasik before becoming the head of RSS’s Maharashtra unit in 1990. For nearly two decades he occupied different posts in the RSS and became the organisation’s executive head – Sarkaryavah or the general secretary – in March 2009.

The co-ordinator

In the past, Joshi did not ever show any interest, at least overtly, in the BJP's activities, yet many RSS leaders feel that in the future, he will be the one primarily dealing with Modi, who at the moment controls both the BJP and its government.

According to a senior RSS official, the Sangh is contemplating a new modus operandi to exercise control over its political outfit because the old system is not working in the manner it used to before the BJP registered a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections under Modi's leadership last year.

Traditionally, the RSS has used its influence through its liaison man, considered crucial because he has the final say in all key decisions of the BJP. The advice coming from him has always been considered the RSS's viewpoint and, therefore, given due respect in the party.

Krishna Gopal, one of the joint general secretaries (Sah Sarkaryavah) occupying this post for last five months, is said to be feeling uncomfortable in dealing with Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. “Just before the Pratinidhi Sabha, he (Krishna Gopal) even offered to give up the responsibility, but he was asked to stay until a new arrangement was made,” the RSS official said.

Insiders claim that Joshi, who has been given a third term primarily to consolidate the Sangh’s status as the big brother in the Parivar, is contemplating adding his weight behind Krishna Gopal vis-à-vis Modi.

“The exact structure that may be put in place for the purpose is not yet clear. Bhaiyaji Joshi may form a committee or he may simply start taking more interest in the coordination activities of Krishna Gopal,” the RSS official said.

New system

The Sarkaryavah taking interest in the day-to-day functioning of the BJP and its government will clearly mean a shift in the manner the RSS has been exercising its control over the BJP.

In the past, too, the team comprising top RSS officials, including the Sarsanghchalak, Sarkaryavah and Sah Sarkarvahs, have deliberated from time to time on major issues concerning the BJP.  But the day-to-day overseeing of the saffron party has always been the responsibility of the single person assigned to do the job. This individual-based system is set to be altered now that Bhaiyaji Joshi is contemplating devoting more time to help Krishna Gopal perform his assigned responsibility more firmly.

In terms of implications, this change is bound to add a new dimension to the RSS’s dealing with Modi, who has been retaining – ever since he led the BJP to a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections in May last year – an overbearing presence in the Sangh Parivar.