The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The new mix: face of Modi and mind of Togadia

Ahmedabad, Dec. 15: The BJP may have won the most seats since 1995, but it is the VHP that has emerged triumphant in the historic elections fought on the agenda decided by it. If Narendra Modi was the face and “hero of Hindutva”, VHP international general secretary Praveen Togadia was the ideologue and architect of his decisive victory.

When Modi returns to office and settles to the task of government formation, Togadia will, predictably, play an important role. In fact, observers say the next Gujarat government will have the face of Modi, but the mind of Togadia.

In fact, when Modi took over from Keshubhai Patel, Gordhan Zadhaphia, the home minister who has been named in several FIRs during the riots, was taken on board at Togadia’s instance.

After all, the BJP cannot thank Togadia and his organisation enough. If the party has done very well in central Gujarat and the tribal belt, which used to be the Congress’ stronghold, the credit goes to the VHP. Post-Godhra, Togadia ran a shrill campaign for the BJP. The ground had been laid in the tribal belt by his organisation. It had been wooing the local populace by starting several welfare activities on the lines of the Christian missionaries.

As Gujarat burned and the whole world condemned Modi for his inability to control the post-Godhra riots, the VHP stood steadfast by him.

When Modi shed all liberal pretence and struck aggressive postures, attacking the minority community for the population problem, the pseudo-secularists, Miya Musharraf and terrorism, the VHP backed him to the hilt.

At several rallies, ministers of the Modi Cabinet shared the dais with Togadia, whose fiery speeches and aggressive campaign made him a star campaigner. In a concerted effort, Modi and Togadia echoed each other’s views on Muslims, Pakistan and Sonia Gandhi, whom they religiously attacked. The duo were projected as “Hindu Hriday Samrat”.

The BJP, which is reaping the benefits of the Hindutva plank, could not seek votes openly on the saffron agenda under the Election Commission’s code of conduct. The VHP complemented its campaign by aggressively and openly talking about Hindutva. All propaganda material by the VHP had only one message — Hindutva.

Gujarat VHP general secretary Dilip Trivedi interpreted the BJP victory as a slap in the face of the pseudo-secularists who had unleashed a malicious campaign against the BJP and the state. Trivedi said that though the final tally was less than what he had expected, “the results will be a lesson to all those who have a distorted perception of secularism”.

The BJP’s landslide victory has not only increased the worry of the minority community, but also shocked the Gandhians who had actively campaigned against the BJP. The liberal elements within the BJP will be sidelined and “the VHP will devour the party”, said Prakash Shah, a noted Gandhian.

Now the BJP, he feels, cannot function as a normal political party. Its character will change drastically and it will do what the VHP wants it to do. After all, it is the VHP experiment that has been successful in Gujarat, and the BJP owes its electoral victory to the VHP.

The BJP’s “unexpected victory” — even the BJP leaders were not expecting 126 seats — has scared members of the minority community. Having voted for the Congress with a vengeance, the community was expecting that the party would do well. The results have left them aghast.

Prof. J.S. Bandukwala, a liberal face of the minority community in Vadodara, is very disappointed. Because, this election, he says, “was fought on our blood and tears. We thought our Hindu friends would reject the Modi-Togadia brand of politics, but they have instead given approval to the state-sponsored terrorism. It is a sad thing”.

Turning point, cries hawk

The BJP’s landslide victory in the elections will prove to be a turning point in Indian history as the experiment of the “Hindutva lab” is set to be repeated in Delhi via Rajasthan, VHP international general secretary Praveen Togadia said in Jaipur.

“(The) Hindutva lab has started functioning in Jaipur as the BJP won all the three seats which went to bypolls in Rajasthan and the final result will come by (the) next Assembly elections in the state, due in 2003,” he told a press conference.

“When madarsas opened in parts of the country can train jihadis and teach fundamentalism, why can’t the VHP set up its Hindutva lab'” Togadia, who has been camping in Rajasthan for the last two days, asked.

“Minorities should decide themselves how they want to live in India.... (The) VHP will not decide their future.… It is a question of co-existence in a Hindu rashtra,” the VHP leader said. “The creation of a Hindu rashtra marks real development in the Indian society,” he added.

Proposing to revive the Ram mandir issue by mobilising Hindus, he said: “Hindu rashtra can be expected in the next two years.… We will change Indian history and Pakistan’s geography by then.”

Both the BJP and the Congress have to change their outlook on Hindu rashtra, Togadia said, adding that the minorities must change their mindset and the Congress its appeasement policy.

Likening the Congress to the Muslim League, he said the “self-claimed secular Congress lost in Gujarat and Rajasthan because of its anti-Hindutva campaign” and because it wanted to appease the minorities.

“The Congress’ behaviour during the Gujarat elections was like that of the Muslim League before Partition.”

The Gujarat polls have turned out to be a “graveyard of secular forces like the Congress”, the VHP leader said, adding that the Hindutva yatra of 1992-93 will now be resumed.

“Godhra ka jawab Gandhinagar mein diya gaya, ab pure desh mein jawab diya jayega…. Once again, the VHP will hoist its saffron flag and spray saffron odour and colour in the entire country.”

“If the BJP, sitting with NDA allies in Delhi, returns to Ram mandir, it will have a great future and otherwise, a future full of darkness,” Togadia warned.

Asserting that the VHP will compel the nation to become a Hindu rashtra, he said the composition and ideology of parties will be altered in the years to come. “The Congress will lose its footprints over Indian history if it does not mend its policies in favour of Hindus.”

“Narendra Modi is VHP’s abhimanyu who won against the pseudo-secular forces and there will be an abhimanyu in every corner of the country and Kurukshetra will be staged in Delhi,” Togadia said. “The Gujarat victory is the success of not only abhimanyu, but of the BJP’s old Jansangh character.”

Earlier today, Togadia administered oath to 600 new entrants in the Bajrang Dal. They were also handed trishuls at a function here.

Calling for a common civil code, the VHP leader said: “Only in India, a uniform civil code does not exist, and 40 Muslim nations have been running on its principles.”

“The VHP’s struggle is for Hindu rashtra for which it can sacrifice anyone,” he added.

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