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RSS gets a new captain

RSS gets a new captain

Publication: IBNLive.com
Date: March 24, 2009
URL: http://ibnlive.in.com/electionblogs/vinay-sahasrabuddhe/2422/53287/rss-gets-a-new-captain.html?from=mailer

The ascendance of Mohanji Bhagwat to the highest position of sar-sanghchalak (captain or chief executive) of the RSS, is an event, noteworthy for multiple reasons. After Guruji Golwalkar, Bhagwat is the youngest to occupy this position. With his appointment, after a gap of about 14 years, once again, a Maharashtrian is now heading the organisation. Besides, unlike Prof. Rajendra Singh and K S Sudarshan - two of Bhagwat's immediate predecessors - Bhagwat has no aura of an intellectual. He is more down-to-earth, a decisive doer and a man of organisation.

But more than anything else, his appointment becomes important for the scores of challenges that the RSS will be facing in the days to come. As the head of the family, Mohan Bhagwat's dexterity in handling several critical issues will be truly put to test in the days to come. However, one thing is certain that people within the RSS and allied organisations, as also thousands of well-wishers of the ideological movement, look forward to Bhagwat to adroitly lead the movement and bring in greater coherence, connectivity and a sense of purposefulness across the cadres. It would not be an exaggeration to say that never before in the past a new Sar-Sanghachalak's appointment has generated so much of optimism in the rank and file of the RSS and RSS-inspired organisations. True, in the trying times ahead, people have great expectations from Mohanji and the burden of the same makes his task all the more daunting.

Born on September 11, 1949, Mohanji Bhagwat comes from a family with a traditionally strong relationship with the RSS. His father Madhukarrao Bhagwat was one of the initial parnt pracharak's (full-timers, in charge of a province) who worked in Gujarat. Originally from Chandrapur district in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Mohanji completed his higher education in veterinary sciences from Punjabrao Agricultural University in Akola in late sixties. Just before the imposition of Emergency, Mohanji started working as pracharak for the RSS and soon decided to devote his life for the cause of the RSS. Initially, for years, Mohanji was the in-charge of Vidarbha region and later shouldered the responsibility of Bihar. In the meanwhile, he also handled a number of portfolios in the organisational functioning of Sangha at various levels. Naturally then, in 2000, when Sudarshanji took over as the RSS chief, Mohanji was considered as the best of all from amongst the younger lot to be his deputy as the sarkaryavah (general secretary). At the age of 49, Mohanji had - besides a very valuable fund of experience - all the energy, freshness in approach and more importantly ability and willingness to learn more to do justice to the responsibility which the Sangha had given to him with all confidence and more importantly, some unarticulated expectations. Today, the importance of Mohanji's elevation to the top job is in the fact that he symbolises that generational change in the RSS which necessarily has its roots in the past but has firmly set its eyes on the future.

For several reasons, he is different. Known for building informal relations, say his close friends; he is free from personal ego and is relatively easily accessible. Some of them recall how he very easily memorised the names of all the 700 participants in a Sangha Shiksha Varga at Nagpur some years before. What is essentially true about Mohanji is that he has not only mastered all the traditional organisational skills as are normally expected in a pracharak's persona, but beyond that he has several traits that endear him to many beyond the Sangha. As a true swayamsevak, Mohanji has acquired expertise in all the physical exercises including a part of yoga. He is at remarkable ease when it comes to playing any of the variety of instruments used in the traditional ghosha (band), set up with military meticulousness. But few would know that Mohanji is an avid reader and reads books with a researcher's discipline. At his bed-side, one would come across neatly-arranged books, placed in the order of reading priority. When a few months back one of his friends from the corporate sector presented him a book on leadership skills published by the Harvard Business School, little did he know the latter's leadership skills will really be put to test in the near future.

Many may not be aware that Mohanji not only enjoys classical music but he himself is a fairly good singer. He is a great fan of Bhimsen Joshi, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan as also Pakistani singer duo, Salamat Ali-Najaqat Ali. A film buff, Mohanji at times takes out a day to watch Bollywood movies and relish all typical Vidarbha food delicacies from bhaje to puran poli, almost forgetting that he is a diabetic. It is this interplay of commoner's traits and uncommon leadership abilities in the personality of Mohanji that makes him stand apart.

And perhaps, it was highly required for the Sangha to have somebody head the organisation who understands the feelings of the grass-root workers and yet can easily connect with those in positions of political power. Mohanji is a man of organisation who knows the minds of the cadres very well.

However, for Mohanji, there are challenges galore. He has to respond to the young and aspiring twenty-somethings who run cyber shakhas, and at the same time take care of not hurting those traditionalists who are sceptical about many aspects of modern living. He will have to be a connector to deal with the extremes of traditionalism and modernism. From power politics to religion and the role of women to education, persons who believe in the RSS ideology are out to face many more dilemmas in the days to come. Mohanji's skills - and for that matter that of every thinking swayamsevak - will be put to test in doing away with confusion, combating cynicism and bringing in course correction, wherever required. While wishing the new captain of RSS team every success, one can not help but feel that his is an unenviable job.

(The author is a member of the RSS and the views expressed here are personal.)

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