Sangh plots Ram return with eye on 2014

New Delhi, Jan. 31: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is back in business after years, courtesy of the RSS.

After five years, the Sangh brought the almost estranged siblings, the VHP and the BJP, together for a meeting this morning at the residence of North Goa MP Shripad Yesso Naik. The MP is a former Sangh whole-timer and came to the BJP via the RSS's student front, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

The BJP was told by RSS representatives Suresh "Bhaiyya" Joshi and Suresh Soni that the VHP intended to resurrect the Ram temple and raise "in a big way" the government's "false saffron terror campaign" and the proposed communal violence bill to generate a momentum around these issues among Hindus before the 2014 polls.

The BJP team consisted of L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi and party organising secretary Ramlal.

Soni and Joshi told Advani and the others that the VHP's "bottled-up patience" must be "understood and appreciated" and co-ordination restored between the VHP and the BJP. The VHP must not be derided as an "extremist fringe" of the parivar, they said.

The only senior BJP leader absent was Arun Jaitley. He was away in Mumbai to address the students of the KC College of Arts, Commerce and Science.

The VHP leaders present included former president Ashok Singhal, international working president Praveen Togadia and general secretaries Champak Rai and Dinesh Kumar.

On February 7, the VHP's central steering committee will announce a course of action for the Ram temple construction in Ayodhya, the BJP was told. The announcement will come after a meeting of the clerics associated with the VHP at the venue of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.

VHP sources admitted that the agenda was political and was drawn up with the 2014 elections in mind and the possibility that the recycled Ayodhya card might help the BJP in the Hindi belt and the west. They also said the blueprint was firmed up in conjunction with the RSS.

"The patience of the Hindus is running out. The (Supreme) Court insisted on maintaining status quo ante, the Centre has not lifted a finger," a VHP leader said.

In 2011, Allahabad High Court had ruled that the "disputed" land in Ayodhya should be apportioned equally between the Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara, the original litigant in the temple-mosque dispute. The Supreme Court stayed the ruling and reverted the status to the 1992 position which recognised worship in the makeshift Ram temple that came up on the debris of the mosque.

Asked if the Ram revival could dilute the other planks such as corruption, inflation and governance that the BJP had emphasised over the past four years, the party's chief spokesperson, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said: "At the height of Hindutva, the Kalyan Singh government (in Uttar Pradesh) was hailed for good governance. Good governance will remain our focus."

Quizzed if the party's allies would endorse the Ram issue, Prasad replied that the manifesto the NDA had released before the 2004 elections had iterated the BJP stand: that the Ayodhya "dispute" could be "amicably" resolved by an acceptable judicial verdict or by a "negotiated settlement in an atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill". "That stand continues in the NDA," he said.

BJP and Sangh sources said the reasons for calling today's meeting were:

To shore up the RSS's standing in the family after the Nitin Gadkari episode considerably damaged the stature of RSS chief, Mohanrao Bhagwat;

Signal a return to the ideological "basics" to the cadres;

Lift the BJP's prospects in Uttar Pradesh by tapping the core upper caste Hindu constituency that felt "betrayed" by the party for not doing anything on the temple when it was in power at the Centre and in the state;

Prop up a "Hindutva" context for Narendra Modi's prospective projection nationally.

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