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Newsmaker: RSS veteran, known Tamil face is temporary replacement for Dhankhar in Bengal Raj Bhavan

Currently the Manipur Governor, La Ganesan has been given additional charge of West Bengal. In Imphal, Ganesan is known as the rare Manipur Governor to have transferred his vote to the state.

NDA vice-presidential candidate Jagdeep Dhankhar with Governor of Manipur La Ganesan, during a lunch hosted by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, in New Delhi, July 17, 2022. (PTI)

THE BJP’s temporary replacement for Jagdeep Dhankhar in the West Bengal Raj Bhavan is La Ganesan, one of the most prominent RSS veterans of southern India and a former BJP Tamil Nadu president.

Currently the Manipur Governor, Ganesan has been given additional charge of West Bengal.

In Imphal, where he has been in the post for just under a year, Ganesan is known as the rare Manipur Governor to have transferred his vote to the state. On February 5, six months after he moved to Imphal, he was enrolled as a voter in Sagolband constituency in Imphal West district.

Ganesan is also an active governor, meeting people, touring the districts and talking about government schemes. During Covid, he earned much praise for organising an interactive programme with leaders of various faiths to get their support for a successful vaccination drive.

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With the BJP in power in Manipur, there are few points of conflict.

That may not be the case in West Bengal, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Dhankhar have been in near constant tussle since his appointment as governor in July 2019. Dhankhar is set to move to the Centre with the NDA nominating him as Vice-President.

Having moved from the RSS to the BJP in the early 1990s, when he was sent to work for the party as general secretary in-charge of the organisation and held the post till 2003, Ganesan, a polyglot who speaks Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi apart from other languages, saw the party through some of its toughest times. Under him, the BJP tied up with J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, only to have it withdraw support to the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, causing it to fall by one vote.

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Later, along with Cho Ramaswamy, Ganesan was credited with getting the DMK to the BJP side. He was also believed to have helped the BJP develop links with the Tamil diaspora in Sri Lanka, Europe and Asia.

Unlike the new generation of BJP leaders in the state, Ganesan enjoyed cordial relations with leaders across the political spectrum, including sworn enemies Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, and even Communist leaders.

In caste-bound Tamil Nadu, Ganesan, who was born to a Brahmin family in Thanjavur, was also appreciated for not playing the caste card. And for living a frugal life, the lasting image of him being a leader on the move with just a small bag besides him.

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He wrote extensively, including songs for the party, edited “Ore Naadu (One Nation)”, the mouthpiece of the Tamil Nadu BJP, and started “Pottramarai (Golden Lotus)”, a group of Tamil scholars from all over the world.

However, this overarching personality meant leaders under him did not get the opportunity to grow, said a senior Tamil Nadu BJP leader, refusing to identify himself. He talks about Ganesan being “self-centered”, and particularly promoting his family. “His brother and sister-in-law’s domination in the party was a matter of concern. He also made his brother-in-law a key figure in the party mouthpiece.”

Another BJP leader said: “The top leadership had complaints about his son-in-law acting as an officer on special duty at one of the conferences of governors held in Manipur.

Back home, he added, youngsters like him struggled to shake off the sluggishness the party settled into under the long control of Ganesan and his aides.

(With inputs from JIMMY LEIVON in Imphal)

First published on: 19-07-2022 at 08:08:43 pm
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