New Delhi: Proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expansion plans in the South and a comparatively younger age are behind the RSS’s decision to elevate Dattatreya Hosabale as its new sarkaryavah or general secretary, ThePrint has learnt.
Hosabale was elected as the general secretary during the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha’s (ABPS) annual meeting held in Bengaluru Saturday. The Sabha is the RSS’s top decision-making body.
Hosabale, who had been one of the outfit’s joint general secretaries since 2009, replaces Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi, who held the general secretary post for 12 years.
The general secretary is the second highest executive post in the RSS, just behind the sarsanghchalak (chief), currently held by Mohan Bhagwat.
Sources in the RSS said that the immediate reason behind Hosabale’s elevation is that at 65 years old, he is younger than Mohan Bhagwat, who is 70, and that he will help the outfit expand in the South.
“His election shows that the RSS wants to expand its footprint in the south since it has a good presence in the north and east,” a senior RSS functionary said. “Bhagwatji and Suresh Joshi are both from Maharashtra, a sangh stronghold, while Hosabale is from Karnataka. His election will give more impetus to the RSS’s growth in the states where the BJP is aiming to gain control.”
“He will assist the BJP in the next Lok Sabha elections due in 2024 and most importantly, the RSS’ grand celebrations in its centenary year of 2025,” a source said.
Other sources said that a chief reason for Hosabale’s election is his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“As RSS general secretary, he will be incharge of coordinating with the BJP,” a second source said. “He will ensure more close coordination due to his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
According to the second source, Hosabale was the organising secretary of the ABVP in the 1970s when he first met Modi during the Emergency era.
On expected lines
Hosabale’s elevation has been on expected lines. The RSS elects its general secretary for a period of three years.
When he took over for the fourth time in 2018, Joshi had urged RSS chief Bhagwat to divest him of his duties as he was ill.
The RSS, however, had at that time felt that letting go of Joshi would have affected its coordination with the BJP, and the decision was deferred to these elections.
A second RSS functionary said there had been calls from within the organisation to appoint Hosabale to the post way back in 2015.
This, the functionary said, was due to Hosbale’s proximity to the Prime Minister and the parallels in their careers.
“When Modi as the Gujarat chief minister was planning to come to Delhi, Hosabale was appointed as the RSS joint general secretary in 2009,” the functionary said. “After Modi’s 2014 victory, many in the RSS had wanted Joshi replaced with Hosabale during the 2015 (organisation) elections.”
In the RSS hierarchy, the general secretary is the deputy to the outfit’s chief. But since the RSS chief is just the sangh parivar guide and philosopher, the general secretary is effectively the outfit’s head.
The general secretary appoints the central office-bearers and presides over the ABPS annual meeting. He is assisted by six joint general secretaries. With Hosabale elevated, the remaining five joint secretaries are Suresh Soni, Krishna Gopal, V. Bhaigaih, Manmohan Vaidya and Mukund.
The general secretary from Karnataka
The 65-year-old Hosabale hails from Soraba in Karnataka’s Shivamogga. He holds a postgraduate degree in English.
Hosabale’s induction into public life was not in the RSS but in its student wing, the ABVP, in 1968.
During his student days, he was active in academics and literary activities. He enjoyed proximity to almost all writers and journalists of Karnataka, notable among them being Y. N. Krishnamurthy and Gopal Krishna Adiga.
Hosabale was imprisoned for over a year under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) during the Emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
He has worked in Assam and during his ABVP days, he organised the Save Assam Movement in 1983. He also played an active role in setting up a Youth Development Centre in Guwahati and the World Organisation of Student and Youth (WOSY).
He was the founding editor of Aseema, a Kannada monthly. He is fluent in Kannada, Hindi, English, Tamil and Sanskrit.
Hosabale was one of early close associates of Bal Apte, a senior RSS leader who later joined the BJP.
“Hosabale was a lateral entrant into the RSS but the outfit decides responsibilities based on a karyakarta’s ideological purity,” another RSS functionary said.
Popularly known as Dattaji, Hosabale served as the Sah-Baudhik Pramukh (second-in-command of the RSS intellectual wing) between 2004 and 2009.
Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha, who is close to Hosabale, said the new general secretary is a modern face of the RSS.
“He has a great connection with a large section of intellectuals,” Sinha said. “He was a trustee in the think-tank that I was a part of. He once told me to raise the issues of sex workers and the third gender. I raised these issues in Parliament.”
Sinha added that on farmers committing suicide, Hosabale had told him that if industry heads had killed themselves, there would be mayhem and that nobody was serious as it was farmers.
“Once he said there can be a variety of ideas and that each must be permitted its space,” Sinha said. “He said that it’s not necessary that everyone should be at loggerheads or contradictory to each other.”
Another RSS functionary told ThePrint, “In the RSS, the sarsanghchalak decides his deputy on many factors. Manmohan Vaidya is more learned and has a doctorate, Suresh Soni is more experienced but Hosabale has been chosen due to the south footprint and the great chemistry he has with Modi.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)