Togadia Seeks Limelight


That does not, however, mean that the Modi government is working to the satisfaction of his Hindu constituency, let alone that of the Hindutva core

For two days, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s international working president Pravin Togadia hogged media space, thanks to the news of his ‘disappearance’ followed by reports of Rajasthan Police allegedly harassing him. As supporters of the government sought answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as State Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s national media coordinator Manmohan Vaidya punched a big hole in Togadia’s conspiracy theory by echoing the police statement that it was impossible to bump off somebody enjoying a Z Plus category protection of the state. Reportedly, the “RSS camp believes he is opting for antics” and “his outburst did not trigger any noticeable reaction among VHP cadres”. Chances are high, they are miffed by the fact that Arjun Modhwadia of the Indian National Congress, which is taking a right turn, and Patidar leader Hardik Patel have made common cause with Togadia’s grouse. Meanwhile, a bewildered Rajasthan government tried to figure out what on earth it was doing wrong and found that the case of violation of Section 144 Code of Criminal Procedure dated 2002 was shut down in 2005 when the Bharatiya Janata Party government under Raje came to power. However, a laggard bureaucracy did not report the closure to the court. Subsequent police staffers who joined the service resumed the pursuit — only to be told this Wednesday it was a ‘dead’ case. Now, this may shut up Togadia for a while, but the supposed issue of the Modi dispensation not doing enough for the cause of Hindutva must be addressed, as the VHP office bearer is not a lone wolf. A maverick Subramanian Swamy — he does not mind the adjective — has raised a brigade of the disenchanted called the Virat Hindustan Sangam, which keeps the discontent simmering, aided amply by a huge social media following, a website called P Gurus that dispenses editorialised news and newsy articles, a distant associate like Shankhnaad, a fan like Post Card News, etc. Swamy tried to assuage Togadia’s sense of ‘hurt’ yesterday, by the way. But while the jury is out on whether Swamy pokes Modi out of frustration for not being allowed to contest the 2014 election from New Delhi and, subsequently, not being made the finance minister of the country — he is now above 75 and thus disqualified by Modi’s unwritten age bar — there is no doubt Togadia had been wholly forgotten for some years until traced in a state of unconsciousness and recuperation in a hospital in Ahmedabad on 16 January. And he does have an axe to grind. Dashrathbhai Laxmandas Patel, who was in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in 2001 when Modi was made the chief minister, told a biographer of Modi and the editor of this news site that Togadia had been fancying his own chances for the post. Added to the factor of envy, Modi drew so much of media attention during the 12 years of his leadership of that Togadia, who once claimed a massive fan following in the State, was gradually relegated to public oblivion. This got the VHP leader’s goat. With due respect to the stalwart of Hindutva and the crusader against corruption, and due recognition of an effective force in democracy called pressure groups, certain things that appear as ready solutions to activists simply cannot be done by governments; when the desired action is contemplated, the system takes its own sweet time to bring the plan to fruition.

But the reason of jealousy and yearning for the limelight apart, there is a considerable scope of Hindu grievance. What “Hindutva” implies still lacks clarity. That the term popularised in 1923 by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar — who was a staunch critic of the RSS, a fact many do not know or recall — is neither synonymous with Hinduism nor representative of the 80 odd percentage of India’s population is a consensual opinion. However, can Modi not implement the ideas that the smaller but vociferous Hindutva force and the larger but quiet Hindu community share? Most of these propositions are so secular, even Muslims and Christians would find it hard to oppose them. The control of temple administrations, for example, should be no business of a secular state when it dares not interfere in either Waqf property or the real estate held by different churches. Then, the Right to Education Act, aggravated by the proclivity of different State governments to launch clampdowns on private school fees, in effect, troubles the Hindu owners of schools by and large while convents flout the rules of the law and raise the cost of schooling with impunity. Should the RtE not be scrapped? It is Modi’s indifference to such discrepancies in Indian secularism that provides a stick to radicals to beat his government with. Even when the National Democratic government takes on triple talaq and Haj subsidy, the Supreme Court verdicts dealing with the respective matters have an instrumental role to play in each. While Modi speaks up against the gaurakshak fringe, most probably because it hits the Dalit section of his constituency, and does not own up the Sangh Parivar’s initiative of ghar wapsi during the initial years of this government, he is deafeningly silent on atrocities meted out to Muslim women beyond talaq-e-biddat and rampant conversion of the tribal population by evangelists in -dominated pockets of the country. While a BJP government appears less hostile to Hindus than that of the Indian National Congress, until Modi appears equitable and just in treating the odds of every community, Togadias will keep surfacing to question his intentions.

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