A three-day conclave of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, beginning on Wednesday, is likely to be overshadowed by the organisation’s unease at attempts by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah to put the party on an “individual-centric track”.

Though the meeting of prant pracharaks (state chiefs) from across India is being described as routine, RSS insiders say it is the Sangh’s fear of losing control over its political arm that will dominate discussions there.

These fears of the RSS had first became apparent about three weeks ago when its executive head (sarkaryavah) Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi called on BJP secretaries in charge of party organisation to guard against “the pronounced attempts” to make the party centred around an individual.

Most BJP organisation secretaries, both at central and state levels, are RSS pracharaks (full-timers) who have been transferred laterally there from the Sangh. Apart from concentrating on the party organisation, they act as the means through which the RSS keeps its hold on the party. In all, there are more than 40 such RSS-turned-BJP leaders, five at the central level and the rest in states.

'Personality cult'

During a training session of these RSS-turned-BJP leaders at the Thane-based Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, Joshi told them to “work for maintaining the independent identity of the party” since the Sangh doesn’t believe in a “personality cult”.

Joshi, in particular, expressed unhappiness over the manner in which the party had celebrated Jan Kalyan Parv, a 15-day BJP programme highlighting the Narendra Modi government’s welfare schemes that were launched to mark its one year in office. Joshi warned that the party should refrain from behaving like a “publicity tool” of the government, which has its own public relations agencies to do the job.

“The party should focus on the building of the organisation, instead of promoting the cult of a personality,” he is said to have told the meet.

These statements of Joshi are being seen in BJP circles as a major turning point in the relation between the party and its ideological mentor. They underscore the RSS’ worry that attempts are being made at the behest of Shah to shift the party’s pivot from the Sangh to Modi.

Ending electoral dependance

The unease in the RSS is also said to have emanated from the planned BJP exercise to build its own army of 15 lakh dedicated cadres. The four-month-long exercise, which is likely to begin this September, has unnerved the RSS as many of its office-bearers consider it a part of a larger strategy of Modi and Shah to end the BJP’s electoral dependence on RSS cadres.

Until now, the BJP had depended heavily on the RSS cadres at the time of elections, giving the Sangh unchallengeable leverage over the party. This arrangement has come under threat with the party looking beyond its mentor’s cadres and developing its own dedicated cadre base.

“This is the first time the BJP has got absolute majority in Parliament, and the Sangh would do nothing to destabilise the government,” said a senior office-bearer of the RSS. “But a way has to be found to address the rising tensions which are caused by vastly different visions of Amit Shah and the Sangh with regard to purpose and orientation of the party.”

If not the start of a cold war, the Nainital conclave of the RSS may well mark a new shift in the BJP-Sangh relationship.