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Bajrang deaf to BJP sermon

New Delhi, Oct. 3: The Bajrang Dal has rejected the BJP’s attempts to convince it that further violence against Christians will compel the Centre to ban the outfit.

Sources said the Bajrang Dal leaders asserted ban fears wouldn’t dissuade it from pursuing the Sangh Parivar’s anti-conversion goal. The rebuff came during a two-day meeting called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Delhi on September 25-26, mainly to discuss the Kandhamal violence.

The sources said VHP president Ashok Singhal tried to reason with Bajrang Dal chief Prakash Sharma that the attacks had continued for too long and that the BJP was worried about its adverse consequences. Singhal told Sharma that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, wanted normality to return as the violence in Orissa and Karnataka was overshadowing the recent terror strikes, taking the heat off the UPA government in Delhi.

Sharma was told about Advani’s concerns that the Centre was considering the ban and that the outfit should halt its activities now. But the Bajrang Dal leaders felt they had long lived under the shadow of the VHP and a ban would only establish their independent credentials.

The RSS hasn’t put any pressure as many in the organisation feel that the BJP leadership compromises on ideological issues to pursue its moderate agenda. BJP general secretary Vinay Katiyar, who is in charge of Orissa and has risen from the Bajrang Dal ranks, is said to harbour similar views about the party leadership.

The RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, made a scathing attack on Christians in its latest issue for pursuing an agenda of “proselytisation”. RSS general secretary Mohan Bhagwat echoed that message to swayamsevaks on Gandhi Jayanti yesterday. He held Christians responsible for the Kandhamal attacks, claiming VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati’s murder, which had sparked the attacks, was a result of his opposition to conversions.

The Bajrang Dal could defy the powerful Singhal because another important VHP leader, Praveen Togadia, supports the hawkish line. Singhal, opposed to Advani till some time ago, has patched up with him, creating consternation among the hardline VHP leaders.

This group has the blessings of the section of the RSS that hasn’t forgiven Advani for having described Jinnah as a “secular leader” during his 2005 visit to Pakistan.

The section is upset that the Sangh hasn’t rapped the BJP for failing to oppose forcefully the plans for the ban. “The BJP hasn’t demonstrated its will to fight the proposed ban on Bajrang Dal. Why has the Sangh not ticked it (the BJP) off?” an RSS insider told The Telegraph.

The BJP has been moving cautiously on Bajrang Dal. Asked if it was a nationalist organisation, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said today: “Let there be a debate.”

On whether the party supported the Bajrang Dal’s anti-conversion campaign, he said: “It is for the court to decide what is right and what is wrong. We can’t issue certificates.”

The remarks have angered the Bajrang Dal and sections of the VHP and the RSS that believe the BJP leadership was interested only in enjoying the fruits of their efforts.

As examples, they cited the protests over Amarnath and Ram Sethu in which the three organisations had played a role and where the BJP had rushed hoping to make poll gains.

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