Days before the Bharatiya Janata Party is to take a call on its president Amit Shah, whose current term expires on January 23, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has presented Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a difficult choice.
Aimed at breaking the deadlock between the RSS and Modi over the issue of a second term for Amit Shah, two alternatives – "suggestions" – were placed before the prime minister in a 90-minute meeting by senior RSS office-bearer Krishna Gopal on January 17, according to highly placed RSS functionaries.
Krishna Gopal, one of the four joint general secretaries of the RSS, who is the Sangh’s coordinator to deal with the BJP, also discussed these alternatives with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh after meeting the prime minister.
The RSS is said to have suggested that it would be agreeable for a fresh term to Amit Shah provided “two BJP leaders” of its choice are given senior positions in the party organisation.
Though the RSS insiders did not reveal the names of these leaders, they confirmed that neither of them is on good terms with Modi.
Alternatively, if Modi has objections to this arrangement, Krishna Gopal is said to have conveyed the Sangh’s desire to install a leader of its own choice as the BJP president.
The development is being seen as the first major sign of an acute churning within the Sangh Parivar over re-electing Amit Shah as BJP president.
Modi has remained adamant on securing a fresh term for his closest aide, while the RSS brass has been of the opinion that there should be a change of guard.
Top RSS leaders are said to have discussed in detail the ways to break the deadlock in their three-day conclave at Jalgaon in Maharashtra that ended on January 8.
According to insiders, Modi has not so far replied to the RSS on the alternatives suggested by Krishna Gopal.
The rigid stand of Modi, the Sangh Parivar’s most powerful man, has remained a matter of serious concern for the RSS. While it does not want to send out a message that it is at loggerheads with the Prime Minister, it certainly favours a change of guard, replacing Shah with someone who has greater acceptability in the party and who remains more loyal to Nagpur, the RSS headquarters, than 7 Race Course Road, Modi’s residence.
BJP presidents are elected for a tenure of three years. In July 2014, Shah’s appointment as the party chief was a mid-term arrangement necessitated – technically – by then party president Rajnath Singh’s induction into the Union Cabinet. Singh, who had been appointed as BJP president in January 2013, had already completed half of the term by the time he handed over the baton to Amit Shah. So, in a way, Shah has not completed a full three-year term anyway. He would just be completing the tenure of the president elected in 2013.
Though the sources in the RSS expect a response from Modi by Tuesday, they do not appear to have prepared for the eventuality that the prime minister could reject their latest formula altogether.
This is not the first time when the RSS has tried to assert before Modi its prerogative to decide organisational matters for the BJP. After the Lok Sabha elections last year, when Modi pushed the case of Amit Shah for the post of party president, the RSS had tried its best to place a leader of its own choice on the top of the BJP. The Modi juggernaut, however, proved too powerful to be stopped.
The RSS, in particular, fears that the individual-centric structure of the BJP under Amit Shah, if allowed to be continued, would weaken the party beyond redemption. There is a general feeling in the RSS that the BJP has ceased to remain a multi-leader party after Amit Shah became its president – a fact that is said to have created so much resentment in the BJP that the party has turned into a tinder box, almost ready to explode any time.