VHP’s failed rally un­der­scores Ay­o­d­hya’s ir­rel­e­vance as much as the rift in Sangh Pari­var

India Today - - NATION - By Bhavna Vij- Aurora and Ashish Misra

The Ra­jya Sabha pro­ceed­ings on Au­gust 26 pre­sented the per­fect in­sight into the fault lines within BJP over the Chaurasi Kos Parikrama of the Vishwa Hindu Par­ishad ( VHP). While all BJP mem­bers in­clud­ing Vi­nay Kati­yar, Tarun Vi­jay, Prab­hat Jha, M. Venka­iah Naidu and Ravi Shankar Prasad were on their feet, many of them shout­ing slo­gans and dis­rupt­ing the House pro­ceed­ings re­peat­edly, Leader of Op­po­si­tion Arun Jait­ley kept sit­ting, look­ing grim.

He was among those who were not in favour of bring­ing the Ram Mandir is­sue to the fore­front be­fore the 2014 elec­tions. But like most oth­ers in the party, Jait­ley could not voice his op­po­si­tion openly. In fact, when ques­tioned, Jait­ley’s re­sponse was quite tem­pered: “By ban­ning it, they have brought the is­sue to the cen­trestage, which the Ut­tar Pradesh govern­ment could have well avoided.”

The ya­tra had the back­ing and ap­proval of the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh ( RSS), which is con­vinced that “back to Hin­dutva” is the way for­ward for BJP. How­ever, it irked BJP, in­clud­ing party Pres­i­dent Ra­j­nath Singh, who claims that he had no idea that the VHP was plan­ning a parikrama.

Now that the parikrama has

flopped, the rift within the Sangh Pari­var is ap­par­ent. Not only did the Chaurasi Kos Parikrama ex­pose the di­vi­sion within VHP with Praveen To­ga­dia and Ashok Sing­hal slug­ging it out, it also re­vealed con­tin­u­ing dif­fer­ences be­tween BJP and RSS and also within the party it­self. If the in­ten­tion of the pro­posed ya­tra was po­lar­i­sa­tion of votes in elec­torally cru­cial Ut­tar Pradesh, then the plan seems to have back­fired. The Sa­ma­jwadi Party ( SP) snatched the ini­tia­tive by dub­bing the ya­tra as an at­tempt by BJP to com­mu­nalise the at­mos­phere.

VHP failed to get much re­sponse from the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion in Ay­o­d­hya, and even the saints were not en­thused by it. The strict se­cu­rity mea­sures taken by the SP govern­ment en­sured that the hand­ful of devotees, who were in­ter­ested in join­ing the

ya­tra, could not reach Makhauda Dham, 20 km from Ay­o­d­hya, the place from where it was sup­posed to be­gin on Au­gust 25.

A day ear­lier, se­cu­rity was beefed up and Ut­tar Pradesh Po­lice clamped down and ar­rested 500 VHP ac­tivists in­clud­ing To­ga­dia and Sing­hal. The

ya­tra fiz­zled out. In fact, the home min­istry in Delhi ex­pected VHP ac­tivists to cre­ate trou­ble else­where, but even that did not hap­pen.

The seers and the saints re­lated to the Ram Jan­mab­hoomi move­ment didn’t show much en­thu­si­asm ei­ther. The pres­i­dent of Shri Ram Jan­mab­hoomi, Nyas Ma­hant Nritya Gopal Das, did not is­sue any ap­peal to the peo­ple re­gard­ing the parikrama. Ma­hant Gaya Das, head of the com­mit­tee of seers which or­gan­ises the

parikrama ev­ery year, told IN­DIA TO­DAY that it is per­formed dur­ing the Chaitra month of Hindu cal­en­dar. Acharya Satyen­dra Das, chief priest of Ram Jan­mab­hoomi Tem­ple, said that the

parikrama had al­ready been held be­tween April 25 and May 15. “The VHP

ya­tra is ob­vi­ously po­lit­i­cal and may dis­turb the har­mony in Ay­o­d­hya.”

The mood in Ay­o­d­hya was def­i­nitely not in favour of politi­ci­sa­tion of the Ram tem­ple is­sue. The Ma­hant of Nir­mohi Akhada, Ram Das, al­leges that VHP’s mo­tive was com­pletely po­lit­i­cal and aimed at “cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere” for the en­try of Gu­jarat Chief Min­is­ter and BJP elec­tion cam­paign chief Naren­dra Modi. The ma­hant may not have been too off the mark. Sources in BJP claim that Modi’s point­man and Ut­tar Pradesh in­charge Amit Shah had given the goa­head to the ya­tra.

Many se­nior lead­ers in the party in­clud­ing L. K. Ad­vani, Jait­ley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar were dis­tinctly un­com­fort­able about the idea of a ya­tra. “On the one hand, the party is talk­ing about Mis­sion 272- plus by tar­get­ing first- time young vot­ers through so­cial me­dia, and on the other it rakes up the Ram tem­ple. The di­chotomy is not go­ing to help the party,” says a party leader. He un­der­stands that in a state like Ut­tar Pradesh, the is­sue may still have some res­o­nance but it needs to be raised in a sub­tle man­ner.

SP did earn some brownie points. Not only did it man­age a com­plete po­lar­i­sa­tion, it also suc­ceeded in ex­pos­ing that the pub­lic sen­ti­ment was not in favour of re­vival of the Hin­dutva agenda. The broader sen­ti­ment in the Congress is that po­lar­i­sa­tion will hap­pen in Ut­tar Pradesh— not on

parikrama but on Modi. It is a les­son that BJP too seems to have learnt. “There is no point in or­gan­is­ing such parikrama. If po­lar­i­sa­tion is the aim, then the only way to do it is to an­nounce Modi as the prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date and make him con­test from Ut­tar Pradesh,” says a se­nior BJP leader.


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