RSS cleans up house: Controversial No. 2 Suresh Soni ousted
Few RSS functionaries were involved in as many controversies as Soni.
Senior RSS leader Suresh Soni, who was accused of playing more politics than the BJP’s politicians, has eventually been sacked. His alleged involvement in the notorious Professional Examination Board (PEB) scam in Madhya Pradesh could have proved to be last straw for the organisation. The inquiry into the PEB scam that runs into several hundred crore rupees is at a crucial stage.
The Congress had accused Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of avoiding a CBI enquiry as it would have exposed the role of RSS functionaries in the scam. Soni is said to have escaped the axe earlier because of his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Few RSS functionaries were involved in as many controversies as Soni. Madhya Pradesh witnessed it most when he sided with anti-Advani elements. The BJP patriarch had been seeking his removal for quite some time. Chouhan along with former state party head, Narendra Singh Tomar, convinced former presidents Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath Singh to get Soni replaced as the RSS point person for the state. The latter made all efforts to give another term to former state unit chief Prabhat Jha. Soni was also accused of lobbying for Jha to replace Chouhan as chief minister.
Earlier in 2005, Soni was accused of bringing about former chief minister Uma Bharati's ouster from the BJP. Some of the decisions attributed to the RSS or the BJP have been arbitrarily taken by Soni, say the party insiders. When Advani had resigned in protest against Modi’s nomination as prime ministerial candidate one the conditions he had put was the removal of Soni as the coordinator between RSS and the party.
Soni was seen to have played a major role in undermining Advani’s candidature while promoting Modi’s. His supporters, however, said he was acting only on the organisations’ directives. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who eventually persuaded Advani to withdraw his resignation marginalised Soni’s role and handed the decision-making on RSS-BJP coordination to a three-member team of senior RSS functionaries, Bhaiyya Joshi, Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal, who finally stepped into Soni’s shoes.
Krishna Gopal and Amit Shah executed plan for the party’s spectacular victory in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The revamp came on the eve of the ten-day Deepavali convention of the national executive committee of the RSS being held in Lucknow and points to more organisational changes. Ramlal, another key functionary or the RSS who has been involved in crucial decisions and is currently general secretary (organisation) in the BJP, could also be replaced by Shiv Prakash. The Diwali session is supposed to draw up the calendar for the Sangh Parivar’s activities for the coming year.
In Madhya Pradesh the discussion in the political circles revolves around Soni’s alleged role in getting his men inducted in various educational institutions and government services.
His name was mentioned in the report of the special task force, which enquired into the PEB scandal. Such was Soni’s clout that the chief minister had to do a lot of explaining to RSS leaders on his name figuring in the enquiry. Strangely, the STF issued a statement clearing the names of the RSS members.
Earlier this year, when the former minister for higher education Lakshmikant Sharma was arrested in connection with the scam Soni's name was allegedly mentioned by two scam accused during interrogation. One of the confessions was from the education minister’s personal assistant OP Shukla. Another accused Mihir Kumar reportedly told the STF about a recommendation letter from former RSS chief Sudarshan, which was handed over by ‘Soniji’.
Mining baron Sudhir Sharma, who was arrested after six-week hide and seek game with the STF in July was also considered to be a close associate of Soni. Income tax inquiries had shown that Sharma’s firm had more than once paid for Soni’s travel. Earlier, Soni had been summoned to the Sangh headquarters at Nagpur to explain his position after some accused named him for referring some candidates for fraudulent selection.
The controversial extension of service offered to the vice-chancellor BK Kuthiala of Makhanlal Chaturvedi Media University in Bhopal also kept Soni often in the news. One of the former senior functionaries said the RSS point person would frequently send instructions for recruitment of one or the other organisational activist in the university. While the previous vice-chancellor Achyutanand Mishra was able to resist the pressure, Kuthiala actively accommodated most requests from Soni, said the functionary.
The prosecution avoided trouble by not mentioning the first name of Soni in the memoranda and statements recorded in this connection. However, the documents submitted before the High Court were leaked from there.
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