Why did the RSS decide to weigh in on the Jay Shah controversy?

Sangh leader Dattatreya Hosabale said ‘allegations of corruption’ must be investigated if there is ‘evidence of wrongdoing’.

Weighing in on the controversy around the business dealings of Jay Shah, son of Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Thursday said “allegations of corruption” must be investigated if there is “evidence of wrongdoing”. With this, it struck a different note from the dominant consensus in the BJP, which has rejected the charges against Jay Shah as well as demands from Opposition parties for an investigation.

On Thursday, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale was reported to have told media persons in Bhopal, “If there are corruption allegations against anyone, they should be investigated. But there has to be prima facie evidence of wrongdoing.”

Hosabale’s statement came after a meeting in Bhopal on Sunday between RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and BJP Margdarshak Mandal (guidance council) member Murli Manohar Joshi. This seems to have set the ground for the RSS – the BJP’s ideological parent – to formulate its own position on the matter.

The meeting came hours after The Wire reported that the revenues of Jay Shah’s company, Temple Enterprises, had jumped enormously in 2015-’16, the year after the BJP came to power. It also gave details of loans received by companies connected to Jay Shah, based on documents filed with the Registrar of Companies.

The BJP has said that all loans to Jay Shah’s companies were obtained in a transparent manner and repaid in full, with interest. Jay Shah, on his part, has filed a defamation case against the news site.

How RSS came to a decision

On Thursday, when RSS leader Hosabale was asked if he thought there was a case against Jay Shah, he said: “It is for those who made the accusation to prove the charge.”

This was not an off-the-cuff remark. It followed a high-level meeting on Wednesday evening in Bhopal at which where select office-bearers of the RSS discussed the matter for almost two hours , people privy to the discussions said.

“At the meeting, [the] sarsanghachalak [Mohan Bhagwat] presented inputs he had received from Joshiji on Sunday,” a senior Sangh functionary said. “This was followed by a detailed discussion on the charges against Jay Shah and the way the BJP had dealt with them.”

At the meeting, Hosabale was given the responsibility of making the RSS’s view public. “It was decided that the Sangh’s position on the issue would be made public not by communications chief Manmohan Vaidya but by an office-bearer whose words would carry considerable weight with the BJP and the government,” the functionary said.

Hosabale is one of the Sangh’s four joint general secretaries and he is being considered for the post of sarkaryavah (general secretary), who acts as the organisation’s executive head. His name may be proposed at the Sangh’s ongoing Kendriya Karyakari Mandal (central executive group) meeting in Bhopal, though a final decision would be taken at the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha – a meeting of the organisation’s highest decision-making body – scheduled to be held in Nagpur in March 2018.

At Joshi’s meeting with Bhagwat, he is also said to have apprised the RSS chief about the BJP’s style of functioning – which has assumed significance in the wake of party veteran Yashwant Sinha’s attacks on the government last month for allegedly mismanaging India’s economy.

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