Rajju Bhaiyya -- former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh sarsanghchalak Professor Rajendra Singh, who died on Monday -- was a soft-spoken, affable person. He was never seen to be tense; he was never spotted with a serious expression on his face; he was never known to utter the word 'problem.' His outlook was uniformly positive.
His humility, his unassuming ways and simple nature were such that in RSS circles, if you referred to Professor Rajendra Singh, few people knew who you were talking about -- he was, to everyone who knew him including his own students, Rajju Bhaiyya.
I was fortunate to be in close contact with him; I used to translate his speeches into Telugu whenever he toured Andhra Pradesh.
A native of Buland, Uttar Pradesh, he was professor of physics at Allahabad University, and well versed in nuclear physics. Like most pracharaks, he joined the RSS at an early age, but continued his studies and then took up teaching.
A major turning point in his life came in the mid-sixties when he decided to join the RSS full-time. His first assignment was as prant-pracharak of Uttar Pradesh.
In UP, he developed a rapport with Lal Bahadur Shastri, who used to say jocularly: "Rajju Bhaiyya can join me in my car any time, but I cannot do the same. If I give a lift to Rajju Bhaiyya, the RSS people will then (say) he is trying to get me into the RSS. If I sit in his car, then Congressmen will allege that I have become an RSS man. Both ways, I will be blamed."
During this period, he also developed good relations with (former prime minister) Chandra Shekhar. (Former PM) V P Singh and (BJP leader and Human Resource Development Minister) Murli Manohar Joshi were among his students.
In the early eighties, he became general secretary of the RSS following Madhavrao Mule's death and, from that point on, Rajju Bhaiyya dominated the scene. It was an eventful period during which he became the guiding force behind the Ram Janambhoomi movement.
Guru Golwalkar the second chief of the RSS, had expanded the organisation's work to all walks of life. He wanted to give the body a semi-spiritual or religious outlook; thus, he brought all sadhus together, and gave a push to the movement against cow slaughter.
Rajju Bhaiyya was part of that team, and Ayodhya was born of that era, as a means to unite Hindu society. The underlying philosophy was that Ram is a unifying factor -- a thought that got added impetus when Rajju Bhaiyya became the chief.
A major focus area for him was education; it was he who gave focus to the Vidya Bharati movement.
In 1994, Rajju Bhaiyya became sarsanghchalak, when Balasaheb Deoras retired prematurely. As per RSS tradition, sarsanghchalaks do not resign, or retire, but hold the post during their lifetime. Balasaheb, however, retired; and Rajju Bhaiyya in his own turn was also to resign in 2000, when he handed over his responsibilities to K S Sudershan.
A fundamental requirement in the organisation is that you have to travel, to reach out to swayamsevaks all over the country. When ill health intervened and Rajju Bhaiyya decided that though mentally active, he was not able to meet the physical demands of his post, he resigned.
When Rajju Bhaiyya became the fourth chief of the RSS, in 1994, Hindutva was already on the rise. He played a very important role in guiding swayamsevaks during this period; and as challenges to Hindutva grew, so too did the RSS response.
When the Ayodhya movement began, he told swayamsevaks that having plunged into it, there could be no looking back; he told us to be prepared for a long-drawn battle.
He believed that the Ayodhya movement would convey to Muslims the right perspective about India's real culture; he believed they should not be carried away by the uttering of pseudo-secularists. Ram, he repeatedly said, is a national treasure and belongs to all Indians.
In 1992, before the demolition, he did his very best to try and convince the Narasimha Rao government to expedite the court case and allow Hindus to perform puja on a nearby chabutra.
Rajju Bhaiyya guided Sangh leaders on how to chart their way into the political framework. He had excellent contacts outside the Parivar, and was friendly with Socialists, a few Congressmen, and even Muslims.
Even after retirement, he was always ready to guide us. He used to rest at the Kaushik Ashram near Pune. He had some property in his native place, which has now been donated to Vidya Bharti. His two brothers live in North India.
He was always concerned about the way we were projected, as a divided family. He used to tell us this should be avoided. As part of his guiding role, he attended all our important meetings -- in fact, he was present at the Pratinidhi Sabha Baithak in Nagpur in March as a special invitee.
At the time, there was an uneasy atmosphere within the Parivar; tension and confusion was building up over the Ayodhya issue and many statements and counterstatements were being issued.
Against this background, Rajju Bhaiyya was invited, and his was the final word for the Parivar. He was the person we would turn to in such situations.
He addressed us for 15 minutes, and emphasised the importance of being united. His words helped us.
Except for the last couple of months, he remained mentally active; he read the newspapers minutely; he used to read the statements I put out and would call me if he thought I had said something that should have been avoided.
Once, I was quoted in a paper as saying there are more VHP pracharaks than RSS pracharaks; he called me to say there was no need to give out the numbers of pracharaks, that it was an internal activity.
He was very keen that we maintain our unity; he advised us not to embarrass the BJP-led government. "Convey privately, but don't embarrass leaders publicly," he kept telling all of us.
He was incomparable; he was himself -- the one man acceptable to everybody; (Ashok) Singhalji, (Deputy Prime Minister L K) Advaniji, (Prime Minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayeeji.
He will be remembered because he was always available to people, he always had the time. So many journalists tell me that today, even third and fourth rank leaders are difficult to meet, but he was always easily available.
RSS Spokesman Ram Madhav spoke to Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt