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Since 1st March, 1999
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Bharti back to Hindutva at Bhojshala

Dhar, June 3: BJP chief ministerial candidate Uma Bharti and Union minister of state for tourism and culture Bhavnabehn Chikalia today declared during a visit that Bhojshala was a Hindu temple, indicating a return of Hindutva in the BJP’s campaign for the November elections in Madhya Pradesh.

Accompanying Bharti for the darshan at the disputed shrine, Chikalia performed puja, recited the Hanuman Chalisa with Bharti and several BJP workers, and circumambulated the shrine before declaring: “It is a temple.”

Asked how she arrived at the conclusion, the minister said “there is proof”, unconcerned about a plethora of documents, including an affidavit submitted by her ministry, describing the disputed shrine as “Bhojshala/Kamal Maula Masjid”.

When someone produced the entrance ticket issued by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) — for visits to Bhojshala, except on Tuesdays and Fridays — that described the monument as “Bhojshala/Kamal Maula Masjid”, she cast a stern look and said her ministry and the ASI will examine how such a thing was printed.

Pressed further to cite proof, Chikalia said: “People’s faith is involved.” Agreeing with Hindu Jagran Manch activists, who are spearheading the Bhojshala movement, she added that Muslims had encroached on the area with the help of the administration.

Bharti, too, backed the Manch demand that a Saraswati idol, currently in a London museum, be installed in Bhojshala to change its status, singing: “London se kab aao gi, hum aas lagaye baethe hain (when are you going to return from London, we are waiting for you).” The sadhvi sang another bhajan in praise of Hanuman as the crowd watched mesmerised.

The chief ministerial candidate also endorsed Chikalia’s point of view. “It is a temple,” she said, adding that it was an “established fact, established by society”. She then offered a possible solution. “Let it be settled like the Somnath temple issue. Let chief minister Digvijay Singh take a lead in that direction. Let there be no politics,” she said.

Earlier, Chikalia made sure their statements would find wide circulation by overruling objections from officials to electronic mediapersons and photographers accompanying them inside.

Responding to a police plea that the ASI rules do not permit photographers inside the monument without written permission, the agitated minister said: “I am the minister and I am giving verbal orders here and now.”

Chikalia’s ministry controls the ASI that is entrusted with looking after the 11th century Bhojshala that Muslims claim to be a mosque and Hindus a temple-cum-seat of learning.

The duo later visited the neighbouring dargah of Sufi Kamal Maula, but their presence failed to cheer local Muslims. The dargah functionaries stood stone-faced as Chikalia went around spotting “encroached areas”.

Bringing the focus back on Bhojshala clearly marked a shift in the BJP’s poll strategy. Leaders like Bharti, Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley and Kailash Joshi had been asserting for some time that the party would not contest on the “Hindutva agenda”, ruling out Bhojshala as an election plank.

“We will fight the election on development issues. The Digvijay Singh regime has failed on all fronts,” Bharti said, but admitted that the Bhojshala issue was a matter of faith for her and her supporters.

The BJP’s shift comes when Congress chief ministers have decided to bail out Digvijay on the power crisis. The anti-incumbency factor has been gaining ground due to late-night or pre-dawn power cuts, acute water shortage, poor roads and drought.

But the BJP is unsure of pushing ahead on the development plank, fearing that a good monsoon supplemented by power supply from Congress-held Uttaranchal, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh could give Digvijay a booster. In such a scenario, they believe the Bhojshala issue could influence voting in the Malwa region that sends about one-fourth of the state’s MLAs to Assembly.

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