The new ace in Modi’s pack is a brilliant 51-year-old Brahmin engineer from Andhra Pradesh, Ram Madhav. Bangalore Mirror profiles the progressive RSS man who has delivered Assam to the BJP
Hindu jurisprudence, the right of Hindus, counter Islamic terrorism and the idea of Bharat. But in the same breath and pretty synchronously, he also talks on foreign policy, technology, need for religious tolerance and secularism. The Akhand Bharat and Young global India narrative coexist for Ram Madhav.
On Saturday, as he sent across e-invitations to attend the Assam swearing-in ceremony on May 24, he also celebrated a Californian commission’s decision not to replace India with South Asia for pre-1947 references in school textbooks. This ease of intelligently switching over between Akhand Bharat and the idea of India, with equal ease and comfort, is what marks out Ram Madhav.
After the spectacular Assam elections, he is the third important person in the BJP along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, a sequence that he does not wish to alter. What has made him deliver Assam to the BJP? He replies without a pause: “Patience”.
The BJP performance in Assam is the result of two years of strategically conceptualised and scientifically executed groundwork. “We are not dogmatic. We were open to make the right alliances,” he says. Before Assam, Madhav delivered Kashmir to the BJP by forging an alliance with the then unseemly PDP. And Madhav is not even two years old in the BJP. He was deputed to the BJP in August 2014 from the RSS to ensure cordial relations between the Sangh and the BJP. The Sangh is his alma mater. He has been with the Sangh since he was 17. He earns extra brownie points for being the Sangh’s youngest national spokesman, a post that Sangh usually reserved for its most senior members till 2003.
Madhav’s leadership style is much like that of a technology company’s CEO. He is assertive but informal and leads by example. This is why Assam came within the BJP fold. Madhav patiently nurtured and groomed the local leadership, leaders who were not necessarily aligned to the RSS ideology or any BJP ideologue. In fact, people like Himant Biswa Sarma or AGP officials had an anti-RSS/BJP history. Still, he got them all along.
Infiltration was a key issue in Assam. Madhav took it up but skillfully ensured that he did not become obsessed with it. An engineer-turned-journalist, Madhav, according to people who have known him for some time, is a flexible person. Like Narendra Modi, he can spot opportunities and take up challenges. An RSS colleague who has watched him for about a decade says, “Like Modiji, who knew how and when to graduate from being a Hindu Hriday Samrat to a Development Messiah, Ram Madhav also knows what do to when.” In the RSS, being a Brahmin (he is from East Godavari, Andhra Pradesh), helps. Also his age (he is only 51) is a bonus.
All his diverse interests — ranging from RSS, India’s foreign policy and Bharat Mata ki seva conglomerate — make him appealing to the populist as well as intellectual and elite electorate. This is exactly what has endeared him to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to a senior RSS leader, “Modiji was slightly upset after Bihar and Delhi. Also there was a vacuum. Now Ram Madhav is what Prashant Kishore was to Modi before 2014 general elections.” Political and media strategist Kishore designed Modi’s Prime Ministerial campaign after working closely with him in Gujarat. They fell apart after Kishore’s equation with Amit Shah soured post 2014 results. Like Modi, Madhav is a good orator and joined the RSS in his teens as a volunteer. Like Modi, he became a Pracharak and vowed to remain unmarried as per the RSS tradition. Like Modi, he got deputed in the BJP as a national secretary. The similarities do not end there.
Like Modi, Madhav is a super strategist and an ambitious man. According to an RSS officebearer, the Modi-Madhav equation is not a recent phenomenon. Before Modi was declared the Prime Ministerial candidate, Modi and Madhav were close. Madhav advocated the European Union and Germany to delink Modi with the human rights violations in Gujarat in 2002. That brings to fore another similarity between Madhav and Modi. Both love travelling, especially to foreign lands. Ram Madhav has been a China and a United States regular and has travelled extensively across the world from Vietnam to Israel. As a rightist intellectual, Madhav has been a key person propagating the BJP overseas under the banner of his India Foundation. A senior Gujarat leader says it was Madhav’s idea to invite Xi Jinping to India. Also, it was Madhav’s idea to broaden Modi’s appeal among the diaspora besides the Gujaratis.
Modi’s Madison Avenue and Sydney diaspora meetings were personally planned and executed by Madhav who didn’t want just Gujarati NRIs swooning over Modi. Besides foreign policy, border states interest him. The two sensitive border states in India, Kashmir and Assam, are in the BJP kitty because of him. Of course, the sudden rise of Madhav has as much to do with the internal dynamics of the BJP and RSS along with his acumen. But Madhav’s survival skills are striking. Unlike Kusabhau Thakre and Govindacharya, who were also deputed to the BJP from RSS but failed to make any lasting mark, Madhav is climbing his way up. Much like Modi. Madhav has delivered an impressive anniversary gift to Modi and the BJP. Now, it is the party’s turn to give him a good return gift.