Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’s sangathan mantris (organisational general secretaries) will have a role in all election-related decision making ahead of the 2019 general elections and the assembly polls in four states this year, people familiar with the developments said.

RSS functionaries said the organisational general secretaries are involved in decision making, but now a “concerted move” has been made to ensure their participation in every aspect of electoral preparations.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s ideological parent deputes organisational general secretaries to the party to oversee coordination. They are the central link between the RSS and the BJP.

“To strengthen coordination between the Sangh and the party, the role of sangathan mantris will be reinforced and this decision has been taken after a series of meetings between the RSS brass and BJP president Amit Shah,” a Sangh functionary said, who did not want to be identified.

The process of involving sangathan mantris in candidate selection, zeroing in on key poll planks and the precise details of campaigning was first tried out during the 2017 Uttar Pradesh (UP) assembly elections and in the Karnataka elections in May.

“In both the states, the experiment was a success. BJP won with an unprecedented mandate in UP, where it bagged 312 of the 403 seats and in coastal Karnataka and Malnad regions, it won 28 out of 33 seats in the assembly elections,” the functionary said.

The party has now been decided to allow sangathan mantris to have a greater say in decision making,” he added.

Differences over candidate selection and inclusion of members from other parties have in the past led to disagreements between the RSS and the BJP.

RSS functionaries, who provide feedback to the BJP about the mood of the electorate, have also relayed concerns of their volunteers and those of the BJP workers.

“When tickets were given to those who came from other parties, it led to resentment within the cadre. So to avoid recurrence of such disagreements, there will be coordinated decision making,” the functionary said.

The second functionary said new sangathan mantris would be appointed in states, where the BJP units are “considered weak” and that those who have “grown too close to the party” would be replaced.

For instance, prant sah karyavaha (regional general secretary) Dayanand in Delhi has been given the charge of coordinating between the two organisations.

In Rajasthan, Chandra Shekhar has been appointed to the post, which had been vacant for many years.

Concurrence is also critical, given the feedback that has come from the RSS on policy decisions such as the introduction of the new taxation regime, the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Those aware of the developments said the BJP leadership, which has been apprised of the sentiments of the electorate, has conveyed to the Sangh the need to grasp the “limitations” and the “challenges” that the party faces.

“The BJP has recognised the need to synchronise its efforts with that of the Sangh, but it has also urged it to explain to its volunteers the dynamics of governance and challenges that it faces so that in turn this message can be communicated to the electorate,” the first RSS functionary said.

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