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With Santhosh, RSS seeks to increase its ideological imprint on BJP

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 22, 2019, 10.35 AM IST
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bl-santosh
Ramlal’s current role Thirteen years after being appointed by RSS to help BJP organisation, Ramlal will soon start work back in RSS as deputy in-charge of communication.
NEW DELHI: The RSS’ decision to replace Ramlal, a traditional Sangh pracharak, with tech-savvy BL Santosh as BJP’s organisation secretary seems to be part of the right wing grouping’s efforts to expand its ideological and moral influence in the party, even as it seeks to establish a larger role in the face of BJP’s political dominance and its own increased social prominence, feel political observers.

What sets him apart is Santhosh’s ability to connect with youngsters in the party and identify committed workers and writers who can smartly articulate the Sangh’s vision, say those who have observed him. “He is probably the only one in the party who understands how technology influences the lives of not just voters, but also of party cadres,” said a party member, who considers Santhosh among his mentors.

BJP leaders point out that it was Santhosh who organized the 13-day jana raksha yatra in Kerala which led to senior leaders, including Amit Shah, taking out padayatras to condemn the killings of Sangh workers allegedly by CPM activists. It was during his tenure as Karnataka organisation secretary that the BJP formed the state government. But when former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa brought in several turncoats to secure a majority and when the latter started dictating terms, Santhosh protested that the organisation and workers were suffering.

Recently, a day after the budget was presented, Santosh visited Chennai and as part of strengthening party in the State, duly asked every member of the unit if the announcements made by FM Nirmala Sitharaman were being adequately spread to the masses of the State.

"He was quick to point out that our social media team in the State had not done much on the budget day. He was right,” a young leader of the party, said, explaining this is how Santhosh is - updated with everyday information about party work and members, and a complete organisation man.

“When Tamil movie ‘Mersel’, which had strong anti-BJP content, was brought out, he spoke to everyone and helped us raise the issue. But if someone complains about a unit leader, he nips such talks in the bud. He is a total no-nonsense guy with a strong sense of what is wrong and what is right,” a BJP member said.

The member added that Ramlal and Santhosh represent “different needs of the party at different times”.

Santosh’s working style is similar to Amit Shah’s, say observers. “He has a moral appeal and knows to take sides without seeming wishy-washy. With Shah at the Centre now, it is important to have someone like him in the party to manage the everyday affairs. Ramlalji will be okay as long as the work is done. Santoshji is far difficult to please,” a member said.

Besides being a full time worker of RSS since 1993, Santhosh, a multi-lingual engineer who was “loaned” by the RSS to the BJP as the Karnataka organising secretary in 2006, has worked in several States, including UP, Gujarat, North Eastern States, apart from the South Indian States and has a passion for reading, specifically on environment, science, national security and how political theories work.

RAMLAL’S CURRENT ROLE
Thirteen years after being appointed by the RSS to help the BJP organisation, Ramlal will soon start work back in the RSS as deputy in-charge of communication in the sampark vibhaag of the RSS. His work location is not known yet although he has cleared his current office for Santhosh to take over.

Over 100 files pertaining to the work of purnakaaliks (full timers) in the Sangh, details of the BJP membership drive in every State, feedback from various people on the party's work - all neatly arranged in Ramlal's office, are being handed over to Santhosh. An oil painting of Ramlal's with his favourite words, "samvaad chootey nahi, sambadh tootey nahi," (Let talks not stop, let relationships not wither) has been packed, probably conveying much about the importance of role he was asked to play here, and will probably go with him.

In his new role, he will handle two responsibilities –– of bringing interested people into the RSS and reaching out to influencers in society with the Sangh’s vision. Be it Pranab Mukherjee or Ratan Tata, or even the latest visitor German Ambassador Walter Lindner, it is the sampark vibhaag of the RSS that pursues such people and spreads the word of the Sangh parivar.

In the past too, senior RSS leaders such as Hastamal Jain or Ram Madhav have handled such responsibilities. Ramlal will now work with Aniruddha Deshpande, a crucial but low-profile member of the RSS leadership known to coordinate with chief Mohan Bhagwat’s meetings, with influencers in society.

According to senior leaders, Ramlal’s exit was non controversial, unlike during the last two occasions when both Govindacharya and Sanjay Joshi had to leave in rather unpleasant circumstances.

Ramlal's supporters are quick to point out that he, as the longest surviving organisation secretary in recent times, survived the most turbulent times of the party. "Bhaisaab took charge in 2006, just two years after the party, led by LK Advani lost to the UPA. At that time, the party was in power only in 6 states, now it is in power in 17 of them,"one of his confidantes said.

His achievements are many, according to his supporters. In 2007 when most MLAs wanted BS Koshyari to become the CM but Atal Bihari Vajpayee preferred PC Khanduri, a former minister he relied on for implementing his pet scheme of building roads, it was Ramlal and a few others who were deputed to convince the MLAs. Ramlal had also intervened whenever there were tensions between Yogi Adityanath and the BJP in the past over distribution of tickets, say his supporters, quickly adding that mobilising different morchas of the BJP such as mahila morcha, yuva morcha among others that have assumed much importance in the last few years, was done under him.

But in a system that was rife with political compulsions, it was only natural that his role assumed a political colour. Over the last few days, some leaders of the sangh have been furious at allegations that Ram Lal was "removed." "If the RSS was completely miffed with him, the organisation wouldn't have taken him back to the root position where he started. The change in leadership was inevitable and the RSS saw it coming. That is why it acted with responsibility,"a senior sangh leader said.
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