Vajpayee, Sangh Attempt Another Kiss & Make Up

New Delhi, October 24: | Updated: Oct 25 2002, 05:30am hrs
Within less than six months, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have taken another shy at peace. A meeting was convened at Mr Vajpayees residence on Thursday. The objective was to scotch views on infighting and to resurrect communication channels between Sangh organisations, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the government.

PMO officials told FE that the RSS had requested for the meeting long back and accordingly time was given by the Prime Minister for a routine meeting. But RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav didnt wish to make too much out of who wanted the meeting. It is immaterial who asked for the meeting, he said. However a senior Sangh functionary countered the official version, claiming that it was Mr Vajpayee who dialled Nagpur, the headquarters of the RSS, and requested a meeting with Sangh chief KS Sudarshan. The meeting comes just a day before Mr Vajpayee has to address a conclave of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to take stock of the coalitions achievements during its three years in office. To Mr Vajpayees acute embarrassment, the Sangh has been one of his governments worst critics.

Accordingly, Thursdays meeting was attended by Mr Sudarshan, general secretary HV Sheshadri, and joint general secretary Madan Das Devi, who handles affairs related to BJP. On his part, Mr Vajpayee fielded deputy PM LK Advani and BJP president Venkaiah Naidu. Insiders described the composition of this group as 3 plus 3.

Sangh sources told FE that the opportunity was used by the Sangh to let it be known that the poor image of Mr Vajpayees government has touched such a nadir that theres an image risk on the RSS too. The Sangh leadership also conveyed its anger about the lack of communication between the government and the cadre. Besides, they did some plainspeak on the absence of meeting ground on economic policies.Our stress is on employment oriented economic reform process, a senior Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) functionary elaborated.

Importantly, the Prime Minister on Thursday also had an exclusive two and a half hour meeting with with the human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi. Dr Joshi had called on Mr Sudarshan earlier in the day. Though the HRD minister couldnt make it to the 3 plus 3 meeting held later in the evening, from his spate of meetings with Mr Sudarshan this month, Dr Joshi has demonstrated keenness to act as a pointman for restoring government-Sangh communication.

The recent outbursts of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) president, Ashok Singhal, including those against the PMs principal secretary Brajesh Mishra, were raised too. The PMs response couldnt be ascertained, but just recently he has caustically observed to a senior MP, I am called a powerful Prime Minister and I do not even have the right to select my principal secretary!

But damage control is very much on the Sanghs mind too. Though not referring to any particular event like blatant dissidence by BJP MLAs in UP, Mr Madhav said the RSS wants policy debates to continue, but there should not be individual attacks.

Many senior leaders dont expect any fundamental breakthrough from Thursdays meeting. A similar meeting took place on April 28, where it was agreed that there should be better communication between the government, the BJP, and Sangh organisations. But there was no follow up.