New Delhi, Feb. 11: Praveen Togadia was on his own trip — he defied the RSS, shrugged off his own leadership’s efforts to appear conciliatory on the Ram temple and sounded contemptuous of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during an hour-long press conference today.
In the process, the feisty VHP general secretary signalled that post-Gujarat, he should be taken as seriously, if not more, as the other driving forces of his organisation — Ashok Singhal and Acharya Giriraj Kishore.
Kishore helplessly watched Togadia, over 30 years his junior, go against the official line. All he said was: “I will not say a word today, wait for another day.”
Asked to respond to Vajpayee’s disapproval of his use of the phrase “aar paar ki ladayee” (fight to the finish) in the context of the Ram temple, Togadia smiled: “Is there a patent on words' If somebody has registered a patent on this particular phrase, please tell me. Then, of course, nobody other than that person can use it.”
The VHP leader denied that the Centre’s main mediator on the temple, the Kanchi sankaracharya, had advised him to be restrained. “The day before yesterday, I met the sankaracharya at Tiruchi and it was clear there is no difference of opinion among the sants on temple construction. My tone has not become softer after meeting the sankaracharya. This will give you an idea of the prevailing mood in the country and the sankaracharya knows the mood very well.”
Sources close to Togadia said the Kanchi seer had promised to “bless” any step the VHP took.
Last week, Kishore had said the VHP would leave the “disputed” part of the Ayodhya complex alone till a court verdict. But Togadia said the construction would cover the 80ftx40ft plot housing the sanctum sanctorum, whose ownership has been contested by the Sunni Waqf Board. He rejected talks with the Muslim Personal Law Board, saying: “It cannot be trusted.”
“We are not willing to listen to anyone. If Muslims give up the three temples we want (Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura), we will close the chapter. If not, there will be a jan andolan.”
Even as RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan urged India to support Iraq in the impending war with the US, Togadia questioned the government’s “anti-war” stand.
atements and said it was “walking into a trap laid by Leftists and radical Islamists”.