The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh backs Atal on Ayodhya

New Delhi, Feb. 7: Praveen Togadia has been pulled up by the BJP brass for terming the Ram temple logjam an aar paar ki ladayee (a fight to the finish) with the Centre, highly-placed party sources said.

The VHP international general secretary was told that such a provocative phrase had been used only in the context of an “enemy country” (read Pakistan) and should not be applied to the government or the BJP because “at the end of the day, we are members of the same parivar”. Togadia had drawn the analogy at a news conference on Wednesday.

Sources said the irrepressible Togadia could be censured only because Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee had rallied a large part of the Sangh parivar behind him on Ayodhya. Not only did he make human resources development minister M.M. Joshi pointman between the government and the parivar, he also got VHP working president Ashok Singhal on his side. To cap it, the endeavour had the Kanchi seer’s “blessings”.

The parivar’s support could be mustered because the Centre gave the impression that it was getting down to brass tacks by moving the Supreme Court on the March 2002 stay order. “It gave Singhal some kind of a face-saver and the moral authority to rein in Togadia,” sources said.

More important, it was a “reassurance” for the parivar that when it came to the crunch Vajpayee was committed to temple construction and “would not allow governance to rule over ideology”.

Joshi was chosen pointman for several reasons. “Among all the BJP leaders, he is the only one who was in constant touch with RSS leaders even after becoming a minister. He faithfully implemented their agenda in education and culture. His relations with Singhal and the seer are excellent,” sources said.

Joshi’s emergence followed the VHP’s disillusionment with L.K. Advani. During the Ayodhya crisis last February, Advani — then not yet deputy Prime Minister — was the chief negotiator with the VHP and the RSS. The Sangh played a part in his elevation but later there was a feeling he had not put his best foot forward. Advani was criticised by Singhal for using the temple plank to further his political career.

Advani accounted for the “change of heart” by telling his confidants that the temple issue was “dead”.

Vajpayee — described by BJP sources as “one of our few leaders with an unerring political instinct” — moved in swiftly to occupy the Hindutva space Advani seemed to be shrinking away from. Sources also cited how the Prime Minister was quick to associate himself with Narendra Modi after the Gujarat victory with a statement on Godhra that marked a U-turn from his earlier responses.

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