Speculation that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is considering a plan to remove Pravin Togadia as working president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is threatening to cause a split in the Sangh Parivar and set the stage for new alignments.
The buzz comes on the heels of Togadia’s claims last week – after he went missing for a few hours – of a conspiracy to have him killed in an encounter and of central agencies being deployed to silence him. Togadia is in the process of writing a book on the movement to have a Ram Mandir built in Ayodhya, on the site on which the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished in 1992 by a mob led by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders. According to an aide, Togadia’s book criticises Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party government for failing to construct the temple.
“Pravinbhai is aware of the inevitable because the initiative to remove him has the backing of Narendra Modi,” Pramod Muthalik, who heads the Right-wing group Sriram Sene, told Scroll.in. “He is, therefore, working on a plan to find his own voice by launching a new movement for the construction of Ram temple.”
Muthalik, who held an hour-long meeting with Togadia on Saturday, added, “He [Togadia] told me that he will seek the support of all such Hindus for this movement who were made to believe in 2014 that the new government would construct a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya but who are now feeling cheated.”
According to several people close to Togadia, his decision to launch a new movement is not only aimed at pre-empting the BJP’s plan to use the Ram temple as its main poll plank in the 2019 general elections but also at forcing a split in the Sangh Parivar.
In the wake of Togadia’s allegations, a section of the Sangh Parivar – especially the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Gujarat – has been nervous. On Saturday, the outfit’s leader in North Gujarat, Ashwinbhai Patel, issued a statement in which he accused the state police of “jailing and killing Hindus in 2002, then harassing, jailing and torturing VHP, Bajrang Dal karyakartas [workers] and many Hindus for years, then targeting Dr Pravin Togadia…”
But another section in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad seems to want Togadia out. Swami Chinmayanand, who is a member of the outfit’s highest decision-making body, the Margdarshak Mandal, and considered to be close to the Rashtriya Swawaysevak Sangh, said on Saturday that Togadia would be removed from his post. “Togadia has indulged in indiscipline and he will be shown the door,” he said.
RSS wary of trouble
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, on its part, is wary of dissident voices erupting in case any action is taken against Togadia. It has been sending emissaries to Togadia, apparently to persuade him to give up his post voluntarily. At around the same time that Chinmayanand was talking about the decision to remove Togadia, his colleague in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Champak Rai, was in a closed-door meeting with Togadia in Ahmedabad.
The Sangh’s efforts to ensure a bloodless coup continued on Sunday as Vishwa Hindu Parishad secretary Surendra Jain also called on Togadia.
“Both Champak Rai and Surendra Jain had come with the same agenda,” said an aide of Togadia’s. “They tried to persuade Doctor-saab to resign from the post and take up some other responsibility.”