The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Words fly on mahant death

Ayodhya, July 31: Anxiety was writ large on the faces of top VHP and BJP leaders who came here after news of Mahant Ramchandradas Paramhans’ death spread today.

The 90-year-old Paramhans, who was suffering from cancer, died at the Digambar akhara here at 4.45 am. He had been shifted here from a hospital in Lucknow two days ago in keeping with his wishes. His death itself sparked a controversy.

“Paramhans can never be replaced,” said VHP leader Ashok Singhal before proceeding to raise an accusing finger at the Prime Minister and his deputy.

Singhal said the mahant had “taken to heart” L.K. Advani’s refusal to meet him recently and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s move to give the Kanchi Sankaracharya a prominent role in talks to resolve the Ayodhya dispute.

While the VHP sought to blame the mahant’s death on the Centre, the anti-VHP lobby among Ayodhya mahants trained their guns on parishad leaders. The mahant of Ayodhya’s Hanuman Garhi, Gyan Das, said VHP leaders had ordered his ventilators to be removed, resulting in his death.

“Singhal and Praveen Togadia had asked for the removal of the ventilators which led to the death of Mahant Ramachandradas,” Das said. The mahant had been surviving on portable ventilator since Tuesday.

VHP activists brought him to Ayodhya despite advice to the contrary by doctors at the Sanjay Gandhi PGI. Singhal justified the move, saying: “We had no choice since Paramhans wanted to breathe his last in Ayodhya.”

The leader dismissed Das’ charge as the “product of a sick mind”, but many anti-VHP mahants hold the parishad responsible for the mahant’s death. “We now plan to launch a campaign against the BJP and VHP for using sadhus and mahants to achieve their political objectives,” said Mahant Ram Das of Laxman Quilla.

Gyan Das has also objected to VHP conducting the mahant’s cremation tomorrow afternoon, saying “as per tradition, this should have been decided jointly by the sants of Nirvani, Nirmohi and Digambar akharas”.

Singhal and Togadia parried questions about Paramhans’ successor, saying “it is not the occasion for such issues”. But top RSS and VHP leaders have had several rounds of discussions to draw up a list of probables.

A senior VHP leader said it would be difficult to choose a successor from Ayodhya as Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, the only mahant of some stature belonging to the VHP camp, is not favoured by the RSS.

He said the posts of the chairman of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas and Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Uchchadhikar Committee which the Paramhans held, could go to different people.

Sources say the RSS has no objection to former BJP MP Mahant Avaidyanath heading the VHP’s high-powered committee on temple construction, but wants someone more pliable to replace the mahant as chief of the temple trust.

Acharya Dharmendra and Sankaracharya Vasudevacharya are being considered for the chief trustee’s post. Both toe the VHP line on the temple issue and are considered reliable.

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