The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Baton passes to mahant deputy
- Sangh dash to counter intense lobbying, Nritya Gopal Das named Paramhans’ successor

Ayodhya, Aug. 1: Before the body of Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas chairman Ramchandradas Paramhans could be consigned to flames, the VHP and the RSS top brass today decided to anoint his deputy, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, as his successor.

“A formal announcement would be made after the condolence meeting following the cremation. But the members of the nyas who met this morning were unanimous in their choice,” VHP leader Ashok Singhal said.

Mahant of Ayodhya’s Maniram ki Chavni Nritya Gopal Das, was the vice-chairman of the VHP-sponsored trust who had on many occasions questioned the manner in which the affairs of the trust were managed by Ramchandradas Paramhans.

Nritya Gopal Das described his appointment as the new trust chief as “an onerous burden” and said “my only purpose in life is to fulfil the late Paramhans’ last dream — construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya without any more delay!”

Sources said the VHP and the RSS leaders were hurried into the decision because of intense lobbying by rival claimants following Paramhans’ death. “Further delay would have brought to the fore factional feud among the members of the trust,” conceded a senior VHP leader.

As the VHP hurried to announce the new chairman of the trust, religious leaders of the Ramamandi sect — to which Paramhans belonged — maintained that only the panchs of the sect could decide on the next mahant of the Digambar akhara which Paramhans headed.

“We will meet after the terahaveen ceremony of the late Paramhans to pick up the next leader of the Digambar Ani Akhara,” said Mahant Ganga Das, one of the panchs of the Ramamandi sect.

The VHP has a vital stake in this election also as the Ram temple it plans to build in Ayodhya belongs to the Ramamandi sect, which comprises 13 akharas.

The heads of most other akharas, like the Nirmohi and Nirvani akharas, have kept a distance from the VHP. The Digambar akhara was the only one to toe its line on the Ayodhya temple.

VHP sources admitted that their choice for the new chairman of the nyas was limited “as we wanted him to be a respectable religious leader of the Ramamandi sect from Ayodhya itself”. The Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, which has more than Rs 10 crore in the bank, is running two workshops in Ayodhya for kar sevaks working for the proposed Ram temple.

Sources said the names of the head of Ayodhya’s tulasi peethas, Ramabhadracharya and Ramanandacharya Vasudevacharya, were also considered, but Nritya Gopal Das was preferred in view of his active role in the temple movement.

The anti-VHP camp criticised the appointment, saying it was a message that the VHP was preparing to unleash yet another terror campaign in the temple town to subjugate religious leaders opposed to it.

“Mahant Nritya Gopal Das is involved in many local fights involving the control of Ayodhya temples and maths,” alleged Mahant Gyan Das of Hanumangarh, who had yesterday accused VHP leaders of “killing Ramchandradas by removing ventilators put on him”.

Guru Ram Kripal Das, the mahant of Bhakt Mal Bhavan, accused Nritya Gopal Das of eyeing his math’s property. “His men have forcibly occupied the land and have even started construction there,” said Kripal Das. “I cannot do anything because he has the VHP’s support.”

Nritya Gopal Das’ supporters dismiss these charges as “politically motivated”. They pointed out that Nritya Gopal Das himself was attacked two years ago by anti-VHP hooligans who threw bombs at him.

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