The VHP’s rallies around Ayodhya are largely a political experiment, one that hasn’t quite clicked, in a state where polarisation has worked in favour of the Sangh Parivar before.
The BJP has tried to shield itself from the blame for any association with the VHP initiative, but party sources have indicated it is a careful tactic in a parivar where every constituent always keeps the other in the loop about its plans.
The most striking example of the BJP tactic is the silence of its chief campaigner, Narendra Modi, who usually tweets instantly on any significant event but who has avoided commenting on the VHP’s 84-kosi parikrama or the crackdown by the UP government. Even in the Lok Sabha this week, L K Advani — the original champion of the Ram temple cause — and his protégé Sushma Swaraj chose not to raise the matter themselves, leaving it instead to Yogi Adityanath, MP from Gorakhpur. Swaraj stopped at telling reporters on Saturday that the Samajwadi Party government should have guaranteed religious freedom.
“Modi has carefully cultivated a pro-development image since 2002. Why should he sacrifice it on the altar of the VHP in the run-up to the elections?” says a functionary in the BJP’s central unit. The source says this has nothing to do with differences with VHP international working president Pravin Togadia either. “Relations may be strained between him and Togadia, but VHP patron Ashok Singhal is Modi’s biggest champion.”
In private, BJP leaders concede that nothing happens in the parivar without the knowledge of each constituent about the other’s plans — an indication that the attempt at polarisation may have been an exercise outsourced to the VHP. “I don’t think this is happening without the knowledge of all in the parivar,” says a functionary in the BJP’s state unit.
In fact, the Ram temple issue had been discussed among top leaders of the RSS, the BJP and the VHP earlier this year, soon after Rajnath Singh had taken over as BJP president. “The Ram temple was discussed,” says a source who attended the January 31 meeting in Delhi, which included the BJP’s Rajnath, Advani, Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi and