THE FLOP YATRA
VHP’s failed rally underscores Ayodhya’s irrelevance as much as the rift in Sangh Parivar
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.
POLICEMEN TRYTO STOPVHPACTIVISTS DURING THE CHAURASI KOS PARIKRAMA IN AYODHYA