The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Apathy angers VHP loyalists

Ramol (Ahmedabad), Nov. 30: As Gujarat heads for its most crucial election in recent times, two grief-stricken fathers have taken a vow — not to vote for any party.

Till February 27, Girish Rawal was a happy man. Today, the 82-year-old has nothing to look forward to. His wife died in the Godhra train massacre. Then his only son, Ashwin, a VHP leader, was killed by a mob on April 17.

“If any VHP leader comes to my house seeking my vote, I will ask him to get out. You are not welcome here,” Rawal says. “Has any VHP leader and minister lost his son in Godhra or its aftermath' I have.”

Rawal is not the only one disillusioned with the Sangh parivar. Bhaironsinh Barot, another Ramol resident, lost his eldest son Pratapsinh, a local Bajrang Dal chief. The 27-year-old was killed by the same mob that attacked Ashwin. And on the same day.

Both Rawal and Barot feel betrayed by the BJP. “Those who killed our sons have been released on bail and are roaming free,” Barot says. What has hurt them most is the VHP’s attitude. No leader from the organisation has bothered to visit them.

They are hurt that Narendra Modi — who talks so much about Godhra victims and even got his Maninagar election office inaugurated by one, Komal Panchal — also did not visit them. Not even home minister Gordhan Zadhaphia, a VHP nominee.

Today, both Rawal and Barot regret that their sons were working for the organisation responsible for vitiating the atmosphere in Ramol. It was from here that the flames of communal hatred spread across the state after 10 charred bodies of Godhra victims were brought on February 28 for cremation.

Both hate the VHP and the BJP, and they are not happy with the Congress either. “So we have decided not to vote for any party,” Rawal says. Barot nods in agreement. Ashwin’s widow Belaben, too, will not vote.

Another resident of Ramol, Prakash Shah, who till recently was a VHP sympathiser, is so bitter that he has asked his son, Rukesh, one of those who survived the train carnage, to disassociate himself from the organisation. “Now we have nothing to do with the VHP,” Shah says.

His words sum up the mood of the residents of Ramol and is not good news for the BJP, which is playing the Godhra card.

But Komal, who has moved out of Ramol, has no choice. The VHP has taken care of her and her two sisters after they lost their parents and two siblings in the Godhra tragedy.

Komal, Avani and Priyanka have been given a small flat in Mahadevnagar. The VHP has even promised to bear their marriage expenses.

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