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Singhal hands crown to Togadia

New Delhi, Oct. 23: Vishwa Hindu Parishad working president Ashok Singhal today virtually anointed general secretary Praveen Togadia the new head of the organisation.

“The decision to informally hand over the reins of the VHP to Togadia has been taken in view of my advancing age and poor health,” agencies quoted Singhal as telling reporters in Allahabad. “From now onwards, all decisions with regard to (the) VHP’s programmes, including the Ram temple agitation, would be taken in consultation with Togadia.”

Contacted over phone in Gujarat, Togadia said: “The decision suggests the faith that the leadership has in me. Otherwise, too, I was executing all decisions relating to the temple andolan (agitation). As the general secretary, I am the executing authority like the CEO of a company. It is a natural and old arrangement.”

Sources in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, too, said Singhal had “merely” made public an arrangement that has been in place since the last two years or so. “Singhal and the sants would guide the temple movement but the actual organisational work and putting the nuts and bolts together were done entirely by Togadia,” said a source.

Asked why Singhal thought it necessary to make public an arrangement which the parivar took for granted, the source said: “That is a puzzle. He did not discuss it with our leaders to the best of our knowledge.”

VHP observers believe the need for Singhal’s announcement arose largely because of his pique with the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and the BJP, both of which did not support the latest round of the Ayodhya agitation. If anything, the Centre sent enough signals to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to crack the whip on VHP activists.

Today’s declaration came after Singhal’s tirade against the Prime Minister, who was accused of “letting down the BJP” by his “stubborn secular stand” on the Ram temple.

and not taking any concrete step to resolve the issue.

Another reason for the announcement was the Centre’s strategy to exclude the VHP from the talks it has had so far to resolve the temple imbroglio. VHP sources said not only were they counting on Togadia to “breathe life” into a tired movement but also to challenge the BJP “politically”.

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