India has been identified with the institution of the joint family for ages. Under this system there is a head of the family who is usually the senior most member of the family. He carries the burden of running this unique institution smoothly and keeping it a tightly knit affair. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) too is viewed as a big joint family and is likened to a banyan tree. Since the inception of the Sangh, the family has not fragmented and the credit for this is given to the head of this family, officially designated as the Sarsanghchalak. Being a family, the Sangh too has to face internal squabbles from time to time but the Sarsanghchalak uses political deftness to resolve issues. He has been able to keep all the constituents of the family gainfully engaged and thus has kept them ‘gelled’ together.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is so riddled with factionalism that there are several factions within factions. The first faction is that of Lal Krishna Advani and within this the chief faction is the D-5 that comprises Ananth Kumar, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and most notably, Narendra Modi.
The second faction comprises such leaders who are patronised by the Sangh and this faction too has several other factions. Prakashji in Rajasthan has always opposed Vasundhara Raje and will keep doing so in all likelihood. In Rajasthan, Gulab Chand Kataria is supported by the Sangh and in case of a face-off between Kataria and Vasundhara Raje, the BJP top brass will support the latter and will not hesitate to go against the Sangh.
In Karnataka, there is the Yeddyurappa faction. Yeddyurappa had to relinquish power when he got into a fight with Sushma Swaraj. Yeddyurappa ensured that he was succeeded by his protégé, Sadananda Gowda and when he became suspicious of the latter taking firm roots in the party, made a case to supplant Gowda with another of his sycophants and succeeded too. Even though both Sadananda Gowda and Jagadish Shettar are Yeddyurappa’s protégés, he does not want anyone to settle as the Chief Minister in order to keep his hegemony intact.
Similar is the case of Narendra Modi. He ensured that none of the old timers in the BJP or the RSS politically survived in Gujarat. This brought him into the bad books of both the organisations. But as soon as Narendra Modi made aggressive moves, which culminated in his attending the BJP National Executive meet in Mumbai where he made bold statements insinuating that he is the sole worthy Prime Ministerial candidate, the BJP faction decided to stand with him. Modi’s aggression did not go down well with the Sangh but, on the face of it at least, the Sarsanghchalak and other senior members put up a supportive veneer. This is in line with the tradition that the head of the family has to take everyone along. This is the principle but is the reality in sync with it? The patriarch has a particular psyche: he sees the family growing under his aegis and thus his love and affection is equally bestowed upon all the members. In the case of a dispute among members they always look up to him. The secret of his authority is rooted in this confidence that he inspires in the other members. The support base of the RSS has depleted: nowadays Sangh Shakhas are not thronged by youngsters, rather the bulk of attendees are over 50 years of age, i.e. the older sections of the society.
The Shakhas have transformed from the ideological centres firing up the morale of the cadres, to dreary meetings where past glory is raked up. Shakhas have become the meeting points of senior citizens where they share the banalities of their households.
The BJP tried to polarise society along religious lines by projecting Lal Krishna Advani as the Prime Ministerial candidate and the outcome is, as they say, history. The recently concluded Uttar Pradesh (UP) Assembly Elections are there for everyone to see. One of the prime reasons for the Samajwadi Party’s (SP) unprecedented victory was the bogey created by Salman Khurshid and Digvijay Singh: that Mulayam Singh Yadav would need the Congress to form a government in the state and if Mayawati and Uma Bharti are able to conjure up a government together, Muslim interests would be harmed. But contrary to expectations, on account of the polarisation engendered by the Congress, Muslims voted in favour of the SP rather than the Congress and the SP came out with such flying colours in the elections. This was further endorsed by the recently held local body elections in UP: the Muslims were not polarised, which enabled the BJP to register an impressive victory. Some BJP leaders are apprehensive that the Congress will try to whip up a similar fear psychosis among Muslims before the 2014 Elections.