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Shiv Sena tries to outsmart BJP, pitches for RSS chief Bhagwat as President

Move comes in the midst of strained ties between the saffron allies. Sena believes Bhagwat as Prez would be a crucial step towards establishing a Hindu rashtra

Published: 28th March 2017 09:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th March 2017 08:34 AM   |  A+A-

Mohan Bhagwat (File photo | PTI)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: One of the collaterals of the BJP’s landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh is the rising expectation that, for the first time ever, a figure from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh can become the ruling dispensation’s candidate for the President of India’s post.

On Monday, a restive ally Shiv Sena, in a move to outsmart the BJP, proposed RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s name for the post.

The RSS chief has at best been an authoritative guiding figure who has maintained the tradition of a formal distance from ‘New Delhi’.

The Sangh, a human resource nursery for the BJP, has never overtly entered the political-constitutional arena demarcated for its political wing. Till now, it has religiously clung on to the definition of a ‘socio-cultural’ entity with a wide influence base. Hence, Bhagwat is likely to ignore the Sena’s overtures.

But the Sena’s proposal is not just kite-flying. Saying “Mohan Bhagwat is a good name for President” is a tactical move at a time of survival anxiety and difficult ties with the BJP. It is an attempt to not only force PM Narendra Modi to take a position, but also to outdo the BJP’s politics.

As the recent local body elections in Maharashtra have shown, the BJP has not only come into its own but has also edged the Sena out of its home turf. Gorakhnath mahant Yogi Adityanath’s induction as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has also robbed the Sena of its old claim of being the prime hard proponent of Hindu rashtra politics.

To reclaim that territory, against a fast-expanding BJP, is therefore essential. This is where the interesting overture to the RSS comes in.

“After Hedgewar and Golwalkar, Bhagwat is doing hard work towards forming a united Hindu country,” Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, the suggestion being that Bhagwat as President would be another vital step towards establishing a Hindu rashtra.

As a Sena insider said, party chief Uddhav Thackeray would like to retain his sphere of influence and having a say in the choice of the next President is a marker of that — floating the RSS chief’s name allowed him to do that in such a way that the BJP will find it hard to dismiss out of hand.

However, after the UP elections, which greatly improved the BJP’s net-worth in the electoral college that votes to choose the President, it’s unlikely that Modi is going to open a dialogue on the issue.



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