The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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VHP turns back on election-bound BJP

New Delhi, Oct. 7: In what may prove a mixed blessing for the BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has said it will not campaign for the party in the run-up to elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi.

VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia today said: “The Ram temple andolan (agitation) will have no role to play in the four states going to the polls. We will not allow any political leader to take advantage of the Ayodhya issue.”

He also said neither he nor any other VHP leader or sant will address a single public meeting on behalf of the BJP. The general secretary warned that if the BJP and Congress do not work to introduce a parliamentary legislation paving the way for a Ram temple to be constructed, “then Ram lalla will decide who the next Prime Minister will be”.

“We are giving time to the two parties, but if at an appropriate time nothing is done, the country will be polarised before the next elections come. So it is a good thing if the ruling coalition enacts such a law,” Togadia said.

“If Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi fail to do it, then voters will know how best to deal with them in the next elections. They will realise how Hindu power can be successfully mobilised even without the help of political parties,” he added.

Asked if the VHP planned to float a separate party as the RSS had done during last year’s Jammu and Kashmir elections, Togadia said: “At present, it (the answer) is no in capital letters...”

He added that even if the Vajpayee government enacted the temple legislation, the VHP would not support the BJP.

“Our task is to educate the masses on where their political interests lie. And most enlightened Hindus will vote some party or the other,” Togadia said.

The general secretary’s comments have worried the BJP. The VHP had pulled out all the stops to ensure the BJP won last year’s Gujarat elections despite tension between Togadia and chief minister Narendra Modi.

BJP sources say the VHP is not as well-networked in the election-bound states as it is in Gujarat, but admit that its militant Hinduism would have helped it in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, where issues like religious conversions and cow slaughter are bound to crop up.

But some in the BJP feel its campaign should focus “single-mindedly” on the Congress governments’ “malgovernance and corruption” in the four states, without allowing the VHP to deflect attention to its communal planks.

Togadia said the VHP would go ahead with its October 15 and 17 march on Ayodhya from Delhi and Lucknow, respectively. He said the gathering of “Ram bhakts” would surpass the congregations of 1989, 1990 and 1992.

The general secretary said the VHP would now target 30,000 mosques instead of just those in Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura. This is because Muslim leaders had refused to “apologise” for the “destruction” of the Ram temple and withdraw title suits from the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court even after the Archaeological Survey of India said a temple existed at the site of the Babri masjid.

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