The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parivar potshot at BJP’s Bharat bus
- Political stunt, says VHP; Sangh not sure

New Delhi, March 5: As the Opposition’s criticism of L.K. Advani’s Bharat Uday yatra continues unabated, the BJP faces trouble at home.

Hours after the deputy Prime Minister announced his roadshow, the VHP described it as a “political stunt” while sources said the RSS was not sure what to make of it.

“It is a political exercise,” said Madan Das Devi, the RSS’ main link with the NDA government and the BJP.

Another senior functionary said the organisation was “clueless” about what Advani would highlight — the government’s “achievements” or “other issues as well” (read Ram temple).

The yatra figured in a 90-minute meeting the RSS leaders held with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani, BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu and general secretary (organisation) Sanjay Joshi.

The BJP urged the RSS representatives — who, apart from Devi, included Mohan Bhagwat, H.V. Seshadri and Bhaiji Joshi — to ensure that the VHP refrained from throwing barbs at the yatra when it hits the road on March 10. The RSS, however, did not offer a firm commitment, sources said.

VHP veterans Ashok Singhal and Acharya Giriraj Kishore and even the relatively younger Praveen Togadia were leaders “in their own right” and the BJP could not be “dictating terms to them” forever, RSS sources said.

The VHP’s decision to start a 12-day Ram Mahayagna in Ayodhya from March 21 has been a thorn in the BJP’s side. Although it will not clash with the yatra’s entry into Ayodhya on April 6 — the yagna will end on April 1 — BJP sources said VHP-RSS leaders would spend all their energy and resources in mobilising their target of five lakh “devotees”. Advani will have to depend on the BJP for garnering a crowd, unlike in 1990 when the entire Sangh parivar worked for the Ram rath yatra.

RSS sources added that the exercise should not be “misinterpreted” as a personality build-up enterprise. However, the sources admitted that although the yatra is officially a major component of the BJP’s poll campaign, it was inseparable from Advani’s persona, which seemed poised for a makeover from being a symbol of hardline Hindutva to a moderate and more acceptable face.

They stressed that there was “no confusion” on the leadership issue. “Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the leader of the NDA and the BJP,” a source said.

The RSS, the sources said, would try and play peacemaker at the All India Delegates’ Convention in Jaipur on March 12, 13 and 14 to be attended by all its affiliates, including the VHP and the BJP.

Asked to elaborate on the yatra, Devi said: “We are yet to get the details. It is an exercise to establish direct contact with the masses besides generating enthusiasm among the voters.”

At today’s meeting, the RSS also placed on the table all that it wants included in the BJP’s Vision Document, like the Ayodhya temple, the abrogation of Article 370, a common civil code and a ban on cow slaughter.

The RSS’ trade union wing, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, expressed concern over the government’s labour and disinvestment policies and said the document — which will double up as the BJP’s poll manifesto — must enshrine its “anxieties”.

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, on the other hand, wanted it to stress on small and medium business sectors, agriculture and job-oriented growth.

RSS sources said the leaders have made it clear to the BJP that they would cooperate only if their wish list was included.

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