Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje, an ex-Himachal Pradesh governor and former Madhya Pradesh High Court judge, was on Saturday elected the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s new international president, PTI reported. The organisation held its first election in 52 years as it failed to reach a consensus on who will take over the outfit’s affairs.
Kokje, with 131 votes, defeated incumbent Raghava Reddy, who obtained 60 votes in the elections that were held in Gurugram on Saturday. On December 29, the organisation had met in Bhubaneswar to chose the president, but could not decide between Kokje and Reddy.
The outcome will not only affect the structure of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, but also the influence Pravin Togadia wields over the organisation. While Reddy is a supporter of Togadia, Kokje reportedly has the support of rival factions upset with Togadia’s frequent criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Parishad’s members elect a president, who nominates a working president. It is the working president who effectively leads the group. Togadia was nominated to the position by his loyalist Raghava Reddy soon after he took over as president in December 2011.
Soon after the elections were announced, Togadia had said that Reddy is “young and dedicated to Hindutva”, and added that he was “certain he will not be in the cabinet” if Kokje gets elected.
“It is shocking that a person who held a constitutional post is standing for the elections of a socio-religious organisation,” Togadia had said, in reference to Kokje. “He retired from government office 20 years ago and did nothing for Hindutva, yet he is standing for the post of international president of VHP.”