The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has joined the last leg of the process of internal deliberations within the ruling party to finalise a candidate for the post of President, ahead of an announcement early next week. With RSS No. 2 Bhaiyyaji Joshi indisposed — he is said to be recovering from a surgery — the task of informal consultations has fallen on RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and joint general secretaries Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal, sources told The Sunday Express.
Sources did not rule out the possibility of Bhagwat having already held informal talks with a senior BJP leader before he left New Delhi Saturday morning. Bhagwat was in the capital Friday for a scheduled meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee. A fortnight ago, BJP president Amit Shah had met Bhagwat in Nagpur.
Krishna Gopal, the RSS point man for the BJP, was still camping in Delhi after Bhagwat’s departure, sources said. He is likely to touch base with senior BJP leaders like Rajnath Singh, M Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley — these three are in Shah’s committee to consult the Opposition on the next President — as well as Nitin Gadkari and Sushma Swaraj, subject to their availability. Gadkari is travelling abroad and is likely to return late Saturday night. Gopal, sources indicated, would use the Delhi stopover to get a sense of what senior party leaders have in mind.
“The RSS has not given any name. It will have no objection to the name suggested by the party after wider consultations,” a source said. The Sangh hopes that the BJP will arrive at a choice after consulting its top leaders. t As part of this strategy, Shah has already met Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and Gadkari among others.
Though party leaders remain tightlipped on the informal deliberations, sources indicated that party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi was not out of contention yet. Additionally, at least two sources suggested that Jaitley’s name too was not being ruled out from a list of names being considered in the BJP-RSS deliberations. Names of Sushma Swaraj and Speaker Sumitra Mahajan have been doing the rounds of BJP-RSS circles along with that of Venkaiah Naidu.
A senior RSS functionary denied suggestions that the RSS was trying to steer the course of deliberations regarding the BJP’s choice of Presidential nominee. “All that RSS expects that BJP will sound out the name of the candidate before the announcement after its leadership has completed its internal deliberations,” said a source who had been briefed on the informal consultations between senior BJP leaders and the RSS.
Most party leaders, however, played down these deliberations, suggesting that informal deliberations are only brainstorming sessions, aimed at aligning the thought process behind the selection of the BJP’s nominee with Prime Minister Narendra Modi being the final arbiter.
The BJP appears to be veering towards finalising a candidate early next week. With Shah slated to travel to Gujarat (June 20-21) after his return to the capital on Sunday, a decision on its choice is likely to be announced soon to ensure that formalities are completed before the Prime Minister leaves for his engagements abroad from June 24.