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Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP dances to Modi soft tune

Ahmedabad/New Delhi, Aug. 30: It has taken Hindutva’s poster boy to get the BJP to back off its tough stance on compulsory singing of Vande Mataram.

Narendra Modi, looking to shed his hawkish image, eyed an opportunity when party chief Rajnath Singh asked BJP chief ministers to ensure mandatory rendition of the national song at all educational institutions in their states on September 7.

Though Chhattisgarh complied at once, forcing the song even on madarsas, Gujarat decided to follow a central circular that stays clear of compulsion.

“It’s a well-thought-out decision of a man who’s trying hard to change the public perception, particularly among Muslims, about him,” a Gujarat BJP leader said.

In contrast to Rajnath, who plans to make Vande Mataram an election issue in Uttar Pradesh, Modi wants to fight the Gujarat polls, due late next year, on the plank of good governance, sources said.

Asked about Rajnath’s diktat, state education minister Anandiben Patel said: “We don’t want to enter into any controversy over this issue.”

As always, the party has reacted to a rebuff from Modi by backing off. The BJP claimed Rajnath had never passed any orders on Vande Mataram to party chief ministers.

“The party president does not direct chief ministers. Rajnathji had not said we should make it mandatory. He just said the BJP would pay proper homage to the national song on September 7 (the 101st anniversary of its adoption),” spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

He added it was impossible to monitor everyone in a singing session, anyway. “If in an assembly of 100, 90 people are singing and 10 don’t sing, how can we make a distinction'”

Rajnath was also compelled to shelve his other plan: getting 200 Muslims to sing the song on Parliament premises.

The official reason was the Speaker’s refusal of permission, but a source said the party, too, had had second thoughts. “It doesn’t look nice. Why should Muslims be segregated and made to sing Vande Mataram as a separate group'”

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