It was no surprise when President Ram Nath Kovind, on the advice of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), nominated noted RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha to the Rajya Sabha along with BJP leader Ram Shakal and two others. While Sinha worked consistently to gain recognition as a right-leaning intellectual and an unofficial voice of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on tricky issues, Shakal's reputation as a grassroots BJP leader with a strong RSS background (not to forget his caste identity of a Dalit) made the duo a natural pick.
Sinha's rise to prominence in RSS ranks started way back in the 1980s. He had decided to contest student union elections in the Delhi University as an ABVP candidate. He ran an attractive campaign but couldn't win the election. Those were the days when the Bihari versus 'locals' debate used to be at its peak and not many from the Hindu college were known to have such aspiration to contest student body polls.
Under those circumstances, it was a brave move on his part to contest the elections. His hard work, both as a student and as a student political activist paid off in the years to come.
He became one of the most noted faces among what was called right-wing intellectuals. This was not just because he understood the RSS and it's affiliates' ideological bent well and had done his post graduation dissertation on RSS founder KB Hedgewar, but also because he spent a great deal of time and energy to understand the Leftist ideology and politics.
A hardcore right-winger choosing to do his M Phil on civil liberties movement — particularly those originating from Andhra Pradesh — and doing a PhD research on the organisational and ideological transformation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), was a rarity in those times.
Besides, he rose to fame in the right-wing circles after he authored a book on Hedgewar, which was considered the first authentic biography of the RSS' founder. Sinha then went on to establish a right-leaning think tank, the India Policy Foundation. He is also a member of the Indian Council of Social Science Research and a professor at the Motilal Nehru College of Delhi University.
However, Sinha's specialty lay somewhere else. At a time when RSS was very selective or almost secretive about its work and philosophy, even in defending itself at a public platform, Sinha took the initiative to become an unofficial spokesperson for the RSS. This helped him rise in ranks and the parivar that he served.
Sinha, 53, was known to be quite open about his aspirations that he wanted to become an MP in the Upper House to get an opportunity to debate on the highest forum of Indian polity. He got some offers to head some institutions but his heart always lay elsewhere. Today, he can boast that he got all that he aspired for and thank his ideological family for that.
Shakal, 55, on the other hand, had an outstanding record winning three successive elections in 1996, 98, and 99 for BJP from the Robertsganj Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh. Recognised as a farmers' leader and a Dalit face, Shakal was one of the RSS' imports to the BJP ranks.
From being a zila pracharak (district-level RSS outreach officer) to a three-term BJP MP, Shakal had a golden run in the 90s. But after 2004, when the party didn't give him a ticket for some reasons, Shakal somewhat withdrew from active politics.
He was missing from both the national and the state political stage and his absence remained conspicuous even in intra-party activities. However, he still retained the goodwill he created as a sincere, humble and grassroots Dalit leader. His nomination to the Rajya Sabha will mark his comeback to the Indian Parliament, which he last served about a decade-and-half ago.
Updated Date: Jul 14, 2018 16:09 PM