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BJP is banking on this engineer from RSS to build bridges with its ideological parent

New general secretary (organisation) and Sangh ideologue B.L. Santhosh will manage BJP’s southern expansion.

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Bengaluru: Karnataka may be in a state of flux at the moment but the BJP has found one person from the state to lead the party’s ambitious expansion plans in southern India — in Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) ideologue B.L. Santhosh, even as the party navigates its tense ties with the parent organisation.

Santhosh has been named as the replacement for BJP’s general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal who is being moved to the RSS.

BJP sources said there was a toss-up between Santhosh and V. Satish, both joint general secretaries, for the post but Union Home Minister and party chief Amit Shah looked at the age factor to favour the 52-year-old, who could continue for at least a couple of parliamentary elections.

The appointment of the key strategist and organiser to BJP’s national team is a signal of the plan to spread the party’s organisational network to the southern peninsula, said the sources.

The strategy is to use a “south Indian” to make deep inroads in the southern states, with Santhosh having already been given the operational responsibility of the party in the states of Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, besides his home state Karnataka, said the sources.

The party leadership also wanted to ensure that they place an apolitical figure on the coveted post as the subtle tug of war between RSS additional general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale and general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi is creating a rift between the BJP and its parent organisation, said the sources.

The BJP believes Santhosh could play a pivotal role in bridging the gap.

For Santhosh, a man credited for facilitating the lotus to bloom in southern India for the first time, the task is completely up his alley.

Also read: Governance has gone for a toss in Karnataka as its leaders are busy saving the government

RSS man with special skills

An engineering graduate, B.L. Santhosh had envisioned himself as a protégé of freedom fighter and Hindutva progenitor Veer Savarkar during his early days.

Santhosh was always drawn to the RSS ideology and the Hindutva culture, his classmate and friend Srinath told ThePrint.

“He has always an ideologically strong individual. He would never impose his ideologies on us, but his grit, determination and honesty, just like Veer Savarkar made us look up to him with pride,” said Srinath.

Nikunj Shah, a Karnataka BJP functionary, also told ThePrint that Santhosh is a “very dedicated worker and a true-blue RSS karyakarta”.

But Santhosh, who has been a member of the RSS since 1993, is more than just a worker committed to the organisation’s ideologies.

“Santhosh ji was brought into active politics in 2006 to checkmate a lot of BJP leaders who were growing too big for their shoes,” said a senior RSS leader who did not wish to be named.

The fight for power between former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and former Union minister Ananth Kumar meant Santhosh had to ensure that the struggle didn’t take BJP down in the state. In the process, he created a third power centre, which made it even more difficult for the two senior BJP leaders to knock the other down.

“The constant tussle between two power centres, Ananth Kumar and Yeddyurappa, both of whom always wanted to be chief minister, began to hurt the BJP’s prospects in the state.

“Further, when Yeddyurappa formed the Karnataka Janata Paksha after detaching himself from the BJP, it was Santhosh ji who toiled and ensured that the BJP workers stayed together and the party did not lose its steam,” the RSS leader added.

In 2008, though B.S. Yeddyurappa was the chief ministerial candidate, it was Santhosh who provided the organisational support, strategy and handled the back-room operations.

Also read: As Kumaraswamy pins hopes on trust vote, resort politics returns to Karnataka

Own ambitions

In the run-up to the 2018 Karnataka assembly elections, party president Amit Shah had asked the party’s state chief B.S. Yeddyurappa to work along with B.L. Santhosh.

However, a decade after Santhosh got Yeddyurappa in the chief ministerial chair, he had started nursing aspirations of becoming a CM himself, said sources in the BJP.

Yeddyurappa complained to the party high command to ask Santhosh to back off and accused him of acting like a “parallel leader” within the party. Many associates close to Santhosh also began comparing him to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityananth and feelers were sent to the national leadership of his aspirations to be named as a chief ministerial candidate, said the sources.

Earlier this year, as the Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after the death of Ananth Kumar, Santhosh managed to push his candidate Tejasvi Surya over Yeddyurappa’s choice, Kumar’s widow Tejaswini. This led to a lot of fireworks within the party, but Shah gave the ticket to Surya who won with a handsome margin.

A check on BJP

Now, Santhosh’s elevation is being read as a way to also curb the leader’s aspirations to become Karnataka’s chief minister, said party sources.

Even though he has been deeply ingrained in the state politics for the last two decades, the BJP high command wants him to work as a bridge between the RSS and the party, and not grow politically.

Further, the move will help the RSS keep a check on its political arm, said the sources.

For Santhosh, with his enviable organisational abilities and people’s skills, this will be the biggest test yet.

Also read: Struggling in Karnataka, Congress banks on its go-to man DK Shivakumar yet again


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  1. Let’s remember that Santhosh ji led BJP in 2013 when BSY left BJP and formed his own party.
    In 2013 BJP got 19% votes got poor 3rd place ( BSY got alone 10%)
    BJP gone to 4th place in many seats(in 2018 after BSY returned BJP won these seats..for ex Tumkur,cn Halli,turuvekere to name a few)
    Hope you understand the strength of Santhosh ji. He grew because of BJP and other way round. Please don’t compare him to BSY charisma and don’t even try to think of comparing him to Modi ji.

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