The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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VHP sermon to intellectuals

Vyara (South Gujarat), Dec. 7: “The enemies of the Hindus are the Muslims, the Christians, the Hindu intellectuals and the media,” says Ramesh Rajaram Vispute, former secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Surat. Currently, he runs the election office of the local BJP candidate in Vyara.

Surely, the VHP and the BJP must be saying or doing something wrong if the thinking Hindus are not with them' “These intellectuals even don’t care if the Hindus go into a minority in India,” he said.

He explains through a convoluted logic that what he means is that the Hindus, despite being a majority, may become a “political” minority as they do not go to vote, while Muslims with their wives and children vote en masse.

Intellectual Hindus should think about this, he says gravely. Perhaps so should their wives.

“You must have noticed that Hindus only react. They do not start riots. But when something like Godhra happens, there is a reaction,” he says.

If a fire breaks out in one’s house, does one put it out or get so angry as to set the rest of the house also on fire' “What happened in the rest of Gujarat was only a limited reaction and nothing more. You must understand I have several friends who are Muslims. We were friends before Godhra and we are friends even today,” Vispute insists. Then he turns to a local friend accompanying this reporter and asks: “Samyawadi che' Tatasth che' (Is he a communist' Is he neutral')”

In southern Gujarat, there was no communal rioting after the burning of the Sabarmati Express coach at Godhra and Hindutva is not an issue. So why go on making Hindutva an issue in this region' “How can you say that' Among the tribals also there are many religious people. They are Swadhyayis, followers of Swaminarayan, Ramanandis, Mokshpanthis, followers of Panduranga and Jai Gurudev. Twenty years ago, the BJP could not even find an election agent in this area. Now, because of the BJP at the Centre and in the state government, we get a lot of people here,” Vispute claims.

So what the tribals are running after is power and the ability of those in power to provide patronage and not Hindutva' He smiles and says: “But people do go after power. It happens everywhere.”

There is not a single tribal worker in sight at the BJP’s election office but it is mid-day and this is precious campaigning time. “They are all out in the field. They come and go,” Vispute claims.

What were the issues that the BJP was raising in the tribal belt' “In the tribal areas, water and irrigation, roads and electricity supply are the main issues. The Congress did nothing for the tribals in the last 50 years even though they had a local tribal, Amarsinh Chaudhary, as the chief minister. He is from Vyara but did nothing for this area. Instead, he sold off the forests. His forest scam runs into crores (of rupees),” alleges Babubhai P. Patel, a senior BJP functionary of the town.

So why not agitate on the issues that concern the tribals rather than raising the Hindutva bogey' “We talk of local issues only locally,” says Suresh Soni, an advocate and a BJP worker.

Patel becomes suspicious of the direction in which the discussion is moving. Suddenly he wants to know whether this reporter favours the BJP or the Congress. “Are you for the Congress' What do you have to say about Sonia Gandhi and the Italian glasses through which she looks at India' Is she a Christian or not' How can an Italian know anything about Indian culture'” he asks, shaking with anger.

A bitter-looking man well past his sixties, Patel’s anger is exacerbated with his own reference to Sonia. “They are running a political dynasty. Priyanka’s son and his son will also be political leaders. You and I will be sleeping and one day we will find that Sonia has run away to Italy with all our money. Write this in your paper.”

He is so angry that he walks away.

But would the BJP make any gains in South Gujarat this time or would its anger against all its perceived “enemies”, including the media, be dissipated' “South Gujarat is a bastion of the Congress. Except in Surat district we normally get no other tribal seats. If we get one tribal seat in the Dangs this time, we would have created history,” Vispute says candidly.

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