The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s purportedly renewed bid to get rid of Vishwa Hindu Parishad working president Pravin Togadia has run into controversy. Vishwa Hindu Parishad president G Raghava Reddy has alleged that the list of voters who will choose the Hindutva group’s new chief has been manipulated.

“A total of 37 fake voters have been added to the original list of 212 members who are eligible to cast their votes in the election for new president,” a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader close to Reddy alleged.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is one of the many members of the family of Hindutva organisations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

Togadia is not contesting the election, which is expected to be held at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s conclave in Gurgaon on April 14-15, but its outcome will affect him directly. In the Hindutva group’s scheme of things, its members choose – through voting or unanimity – a president, who then nominates a working president. It is the working president who effectively leads the organisation. Togadia has held the position since December 2011, when he was nominated by his loyalist Reddy, who took over as president the same month.

Reddy first alleged manipulation of the voters’ list two weeks ago in a letter to VS Kokje, a former High Court judge and Himachal Pradesh governor who is contesting the presidential election with the backing of the RSS. “The entire process of election without correcting the voters’ list containing ineligible voters, as mentioned in the bye-laws is illegal, and the same should be rectified before conducting the elections,” Reddy wrote. “Hence, the Returning Officer is requested not to proceed further with the elections without the corrections of the voters’ list by deleting the ineligible voters.”

The letter was copied to all members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and some senior leaders of the RSS. But the RSS has not moved to address the concerns raised by the president of one of its most prominent affiliates, fuelling speculation that it wants Togadia gone at any cost.

For Modi’s sake

A section of the Sangh’s leadership is unhappy with Togadia because he has refused to repair ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom he has been at loggerheads for decades. This section of the leadership, considered close to Modi, first moved to oust Togadia by replacing Reddy with Kokje during a meeting of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s board of trustees in Bhubaneswar on December 29. But Togadia outmanoeuvred them by pressing for a secret ballot to choose the next president. Apparently fearing embarrassment to the Sangh if the secret ballot returned Togadia, RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi intervened and the Modi loyalists backed off.

“Bhaiyyaji Joshi intervened just when the election process was about to begin,” said the leader close to Reddy. “So overwhelming was the support in favour of Pravinbhai that Kokje might have lost the election miserably. Our opponents fear the present leadership enjoys the confidence of the majority of voters in the VHP. That’s why they have sought to alter the voter list which was approved at Bhubaneshwar meeting.”

Founded in 1964, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has never held an election for president, always preferring to fill the post unanimously. By agreeing to have an election now reflects the RSS’ desperation to oust Togadia by any means necessary. It also shows that the “Modi lobby” in the Sangh Parivar wields great influence.