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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Explained: How the RSS elects its top executive

There is no election for the post of Sarsanghchalak (RSS chief) as the outgoing chief appoints his successor, who holds the position for life or until he desires.

Written by Shyamlal Yadav | New Delhi |
Updated: March 24, 2021 8:58:05 am
The ABPS is the highest decision-making body of the RSS. The bulk of its 1,500 members are all-India representatives of active swayamsevaks.

On Saturday, the senior-most executive of the RSS, Sar-karyawah (general secretary), will be elected by nearly 1,500 members of the Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS). This election every three years is conventionally held in Nagpur, but this year will see a departure: the ABPS is meeting in Bengaluru with only around 600 ABPS delegates attending; the rest will vote virtually from their respective headquarters.

The ABPS

The ABPS is the highest decision-making body of the RSS. The bulk of its 1,500 members are all-India representatives of active swayamsevaks.

There is no election for the post of Sarsanghchalak (RSS chief) as the outgoing chief appoints his successor, who holds the position for life or until he desires. But the Sar-karyawah is elected by the ABPS in Nagpur, once every three years — the duration of his tenure.

The ABPS meets for three days in the second or third week of March, usually concluding its meeting on the second or third Sunday of the month. This year, it is just for two days starting Friday.

The annual meeting is held at various venues around the country, but once every three years, it is held in Nagpur where the ABPS elects the Sar-karyawah — until exceptional circumstances led to the change of venue this year. Last year’s annual meeting too was scheduled in Bengaluru but was called off due to the Covid-19 outbreak —after several delegates had already reached the venue.

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The election process

The election is usually on the second day of the three-day meeting; it will be on the second day of this year’s two day meeting. Normally, the incumbent Sar-karyawah informs delegates about the work done during his tenure, and announces that since his term has ended, a new Sar-karyawah must be elected. An election officer is then appointed from among the senior functionaries. A senior functionary proposes a name for the new Sar-karyawah. This name is generally accepted, and the Sar-karyawah is declared elected. After he is elected, the new Sar-karyawah announces his team.

The present system of holding the Sar-karyawah election was adopted in the early fifties. Elections were not held during the Emergency (1975-77), and in 1993 when the RSS was banned after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Incumbent & contenders

The executive head of the RSS has full control over the organisation’s every activity. The current Sar-karyawah, Suresh Bhaiyaji Joshi, completes his fourth three-year term this year. The late H V Sheshadri is the only other one to have been Sar-karyawah for four consecutive terms (from 1987 to 2000).

The normal practice is for the new Sar-karyawah to be chosen from among the incumbent’s deputies, or Sah-sar-karyawahs. Bhaiyyaji Joshi’s sah-sar-karyawahs are Dattatreya Hosabale, Suresh Soni, Dr Krishna Gopal, Manmohan Vaidya, B Bhagaiah and C R Mukunda.

There have been exceptions when the Sar-karyawah has not been from among the Sah-sar-karyawahs. When Joshi, for example, was elected Sar-karyawah in 2009, he was Akhil Bhartiya Sewa Pramukh of the RSS, not Sah-sar-karwayah. Even Joshi is eligible for re-election. But he is 74, and a point being discussed is that whoever is elected this year should also continue into the next tenure, with the RSS centenary year coming up in 2025.

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