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Since 1st March, 1999
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VHP eats Togadia words on temple

New Delhi, Feb. 12: In a familiar replay of statements and counter-statements issued within the space of 24 hours, the senior leadership of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad took back its general secretary Praveen Togadia’s statements on the impending US-Iraq war and the Ram temple.

The retraction came after human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi spoke to VHP working president Ashok Singhal and senior vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore today. Joshi was directed by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee to mediate on the government’s behalf with the RSS and the VHP.

Following his intervention, Kishore called a press conference today — the VHP’s fourth in the last seven days — to “clarify” that whatever Togadia had said yesterday was in his “personal capacity” and that he had not “consulted” them before speaking to the press. “The VHP only talks of nationalist and Hindu interests and gives a collective view,” said Kishore, when asked why Togadia had urged the Centre to support the US’ proposed strikes on Iraq after the RSS supported the government’s decision to oppose the war.

He said a final decision on whether the VHP wanted the “disputed” as well as the “undisputed” land in Ayodhya would be taken only by the dharma sansad. Togadia declared that the temple would be constructed over the 80 ft by 40 ft “disputed” plot as well because it housed the sanctum sanctorum of Ram Lalla.

A statement issued by Joshi said he told the VHP leaders that “we must make all possible effort to narrow down issues of conflict”. “Statements that are not in the interest of the present initiative should be avoided and area of conflict should not be widened,” he advised. The Centre, he added, was “sincerely trying to amicably resolve the issue of the undisputed land”. He said he informed the VHP leaders that the plea filed by the Centre in the Supreme Court to get the stay order vacated concerned only the “undisputed” land. “The issue of the disputed area will be resolved as per the decisions of the court.”

On Iraq, he stated that the government’s stand was “very clear” and had been “endorsed by the entire nation”.

But in an indication of the apparent intricacies in the relation between the VHP and the Centre, Kishore made it clear that Joshi had not spoken to him and that “the Centre itself does not speak in one voice”.

BJP sources interpreted Togadia’s “independent” assertions as a signal of a “generational” leadership change, with the baton likely to pass from the hands of the 70- plus, Singhal and Kishore, to the “more young and dynamic”.

The other theory was it suited the VHP veterans to maintain a veneer of being “responsible” while allowing Togadia to make noise on the temple.

There was a feeling that although Singhal was the spearhead of the temple agitation for over a decade, his “credibility” may have got chipped away because of the VHP’s inability to extract something concrete from the very BJP for which it had worked overtime to see in power at the Centre. “We feel, every time Singhal and company raise the pitch of the movement to such a height, that our cadre thinks construction will start any moment. And then the whole thing peters out,” said BJP sources.

Togadia, with a pronounced hardline stance articulated in blunt statements, was perceived as the “need of the hour” to “re-enthuse our cadre”. His stock, said sources, soared after the Gujarat victory in which he worked in tandem with Narendra Modi. It is believed that Togadia was backed by “influential” sections in the BJP.

The other theory was it suited the VHP veterans to maintain a veneer of being “responsible” while allowing Togadia to make noise on the temple.

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