The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP bridges parivar gap

New Delhi, Jan. 15: After several glitches during the NDA government’s ongoing tenure, the BJP believes its relations with the RSS are finally on an even keel.

The cementing forces, a senior BJP functionary said, were Murli Manohar Joshi and Narendra Modi.

If Joshi, the human resources development minister, earned RSS kudos for sticking to his stand on rewriting history to suit the Hindutva viewpoint, the Gujarat chief minister’s defence of the “reaction” to the Godhra carnage was confirmation of the fact that the BJP would never let its mentor down in a crunch situation, BJP sources said.

“The BJP-Sangh tension was sometimes far more visible than the cracks within the NDA,” the BJP functionary said. “The history textbook controversy was a blessing in disguise for us because it was pitched as a big ideological issue and helped bridge the gap between us.”

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, quick to feel the Sangh’s pulse on the textbook issue, lavished praise on Joshi on his birthday.

The BJP, too, has joined the chorus of praise for Joshi. The party had not defended Joshi when he was attacked by the Opposition and some in the NDA for insisting on a recitation of Saraswati Vandana at an education ministers’ conference in 1999, and later for reinterpreting history.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu on Monday challenged the Congress to spell out its stand on the issue. The latest edition of Organiser, the RSS mouthpiece, carried an article by BJP parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra trashing “pseudo-secularists”.

“It would be best to let the Congress and their cohorts stew in their own juice. With the verdict of the apex court — dismissing a petition challenging the changes in the history text — the ghost of saffronisation has been laid to rest. A new dawn is beginning in the horizon of school education,” Malhotra wrote.

Modi’s huge Mumbai rally at Shivaji Park, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s political turf, was seen as confirmation of the BJP’s perception that Hindutva is here to stay. The party plans to use Modi as its star campaigner, not only in the western states but also in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Modi’s success at the polls was seen as a coup of sorts because, as sources said, it had thrown the Congress, the BJP’s main opponent, into a tizzy. “Post-Gujarat, there is panic in the Congress,” said the sources and cited the latest response of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh as an example.

“For the last one month, Digvijay Singh has practised the politics of diversion. One day he says I’ll come up with an Islamic university and cultural nationalism is cultural terrorism. The next day, he says I’ll take away RSS land but adds I am for a Ram mandir,” the sources said.

“He’s repeating the mistake the Congress made in Gujarat, that is showing they are more patriotic than you and then go into reverse gear. Digvijay has been doing all this to run away from the development debate,” the sources added.

The only spheres worrying the BJP are the VHP’s insistence on going ahead with the Ram temple and how to put the “right” spin on reforms and prevent contradictory voices from arising within the Sangh.

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