The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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There need be no doubt that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad believes the Gujarat “experiment” should be repeated everywhere that elections are in the offing. Therefore, together with the Hindu Jagran Manch and the Bajrang Dal, it had targeted Bhojshala-Kamal Moula mosque, an eleventh century structure, at Dhar in Madhya Pradesh. This structure too has a history of dispute, and could give the Hindutva brigade the appearance of a cause that might be used against the twice-elected Congress chief minister, Mr Digvijay Singh. The rhetoric was once again warlike: “storming”, “taking over”, “handover” were the terms being used before and during the pitched battle with the police, in which the Hindutva activists were forced to retreat. It would be difficult to believe, especially after the experience of Gujarat, that the Bharatiya Janata Party is innocent of this gathering effort to create a new communal flashpoint in Madhya Pradesh. Such optimism would be decisively countered by the role Ms Uma Bharti played in the aborted “storming”. Ms Bharti, after her stint in the BJP ministry, has been sent to Bhopal by the party high command for the specific job of leading the BJP to victory in the elections. Her warlike rhetoric addressed to the chief minister — that he had better “hand over” the structure to the Hindus — leaves little to be desired in the category of inflammatory language. Besides the fact, of course, that the presence of a high profile BJP leader in a defined communal context exposes as lies the BJP’s pious declarations after its victory in Gujarat.

In any event, the BJP has so far shown no inclination to comment on what took place in Bhojshala. Instead, Mr Digvijay Singh recited in the assembly relevant sections of a 1998 affidavit signed by the BJP’s Ms Sumitra Mahajan and her husband. Going by the affidavit, the VHP is on pitifully weak ground, because evidence shows that the structure may have originally been a mosque. In any case, rights of worship have been shared between Hindus and Muslims according to an Archaeological Survey of India directive. To demand more than that is to provoke trouble. Obviously that is what the VHP is trying to do, but the BJP is showing signs of bad management. Mr Singh has deftly hijacked its “ban cow slaughter” campaign. Caught between an aborted Hindutva adventure and the prime minister’s ire at being left exposed to the Congress’s barbs, the party and its parivar brethren are not comfortable at the moment. Which does not mean they will give up.

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