The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parivar patch-up with saffron minister

New Delhi, May 24: “Bhagwakaran” (saffronisation) has at long last openly permeated North Block with the appointment of Swami Chinmayanand as minister of state for home.

If one intention of the BJP was to make up with its estranged sibling, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, via the Cabinet shuffle, Chinmayanand was the perfect candidate. He was a founder-member of the Ramjanmabhoomi Mukti Yagya Samiti, which was set up in 1984 to spearhead the “movement” for a Ram temple in Ayodhya. He continues to be on a high-powered committee set up by the VHP to facilitate the temple construction.

Chinmayanand’s route to the BJP was not through the RSS track. He came on his own steam, as it were, during the era when the RSS and the BJP sought to co-opt the Hindu clergy to give a religious colour to its Hindutva politics epitomised by the Ayodhya agitation.

Chinmayanand, who is from Gonda in east Uttar Pradesh, was associated with the Parmath Ashram of Hardwar. But contrary to the stereotypes of the holy man as a “detached, other-wordly figure” or a “smooth-talking trickster”, this sadhu stood out for his blunt speak. Whether it was on Muslims, religious conversions, the Shah Bano case or Article 370, the VHP could trust Chinmayanand to fire a fusillade at rallies and hope that emanating from a saffron-clad sant sporting a tilak, it would sound respectable.

He was promptly rewarded with a Lok Sabha ticket in the 1991 elections from Badayun. Chinmayanand was pitted against the Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav. The general projection was that Yadav would sail through in this Mandalised constituency dominated by Yadavs and Muslims. But Chinmayanand emerged as the giant killer.

Even as a Lok Sabha MP, he continued to be a member of the Yagya Samiti and remained committed to the temple plank. He lost the 1996 election to the Samajwadi Party’s Saleem Sherwani but returned to the Lok Sabha when he won from Jaunpur in 1999. Not once was Chinmayanand apologetic about being a kar sevak when the Babri mosque was demolished.

Unfazed by the compulsions of coalition politics, he shared a dais with the VHP till the last dharam sansad.

BJP sources said deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani was keen on inducting Chinmayanand in the home ministry, which was short of one minister after C. Vidyasagar Rao was shifted in the last shuffle. But his former VHP comrades were sceptical of the move.

VHP joint general secretary Onkar Bhave said: “His induction could work both ways. If the government is sincere about constructing the Ram temple and uses Chinmayanand as a mediator it will benefit us. But if the motive is to coopt and silence him, then it will be of no use.”


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