Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia, who claimed on Tuesday that there was a conspiracy to kill him in a police encounter and that central agencies were being deployed to silence him, is in the midst of finalising a book on the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
The book is a tell-all about the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and its impact on the Bharatiya Janata Party. It also discusses Hindutva leaders who contributed to this movement, as well as those who exploited it to gain politically.
The objective of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement is to build a temple in Ayodhya at the exact spot where some Hindus believe the deity Ram was born. The 16th century Babri Masjid, which stood at that spot, was demolished by Hindutva groups in 1992 after a long, occasionally violent, campaign by the BJP that started in the late 1980s. The matter is now in court.
The movement was instrumental in helping the BJP gain popularity across India. It transformed the party’s fortunes – from winning only two seats in the 1984 general elections, it seized an absolute majority in Parliament 30 years later. Now, the BJP is also in power in several states.
If published before the 2019 parliamentary elections, the book’s contents threaten to throw a spanner in the BJP’s apparent plan to make the Ram temple issue its central poll plank in a bid to win another five years in power.
Modi and the Ram Mandir
To be titled Saffron Reflections: Faces & Masks, Togadia has devoted a significant portion of his manuscript to attacking Narendra Modi, a friend-turned-foe, for his failure to enact a law for the construction of the Ram Mandir despite having the numbers in Parliament.
“He [Togadia] has explained in his book how Modi ditched Hindus by obtaining their support to become the prime minister but did nothing for the construction of the Ram temple,” said a close Togadia aide, who has read the manuscript. The aide added that Modi has also been criticised for failing to impose a complete ban on cow slaughter in the country. “The book is almost ready,” said the aide. “Doctor-saab [Togadia] has to give final touches to his book before it is sent for publication.”
Togadia’s account of the prime minister as a leader who did nothing for the construction of Ram temple is unlikely to help the BJP’s plan to make Ayodhya its central re-election plank. That this is the plan became obvious when the party appointed Adityanath, the head priest of Gorakhpur’s Gorakhnath temple, as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh early last year. Adityanath is known to stoke communal passions by carefully using the symbol of Ayodhya to affect the large-scale polarisation of Hindus. Adityanath has already set out to politically exploit the Ram Mandir issue again, another indication that Modi, faced with a slowdown in India’s economic growth, is looking at the revival of the Ayodhya issue to help his party win another term in power.
Togadia vs Modi
It is no secret that Togadia is not on good terms with Modi. But the VHP leader’s allegations, during a press conference on Tuesday, that his life was in danger show that the tension between the two is now boiling over. Togadia held the press conference a day after he was admitted to an Ahmedabad hospital in an unconscious state hours after his outfit claimed that he was missing. The international working president of the VHP had disappeared for a while on Monday after a police team went to his home in Ahmedabad to arrest him in connection with an attempt-to-murder case from 1996.
It is difficult to gauge the extent to which the BJP leadership sees Togadia’s book as a threat, as it is yet to be released. But the allegations Togadia made during the press conference are largely seen as an attack on Modi, the one person who has been criticised the most in the upcoming book.