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HindustanTimes Sun,13 Jul 2014

At Maha Kumbh, BJP set for a Hindutva dip

Vikas Pathak & Pradip Kr Maitra, Hindustan Times  New Delhi/Nagpur, February 03, 2013
First Published: 00:06 IST(3/2/2013) | Last Updated: 10:17 IST(4/2/2013)

Politics is set to meet divinity next week at the Maha Kumbh with the Bharatiya Janata Party using the mass gathering to reaffirm its Hindutva roots ahead of a year of electioneering in which development has become the main agenda.

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Party president Rajnath Singh will take part in the once-in-12-years event with a holy dip in the Ganga on Wednesday, which also happens to be the opening day of a two-day meeting of Hindu leaders called to pass resolutions on issues ranging from building the Ram temple in Ayodhya to condemning "motivated charges" of Hindu terror.

Attending the meeting will be the head of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the BJP's ideological patron, and representatives of the far-right Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

Rajnath's presence at the Kumbh has raised eyebrows because it follows close on the heels of a coordination meeting of the BJP, RSS and VHP, in which the Sangh Parivar outfits wanted the BJP to reaffirm its faith in the basics of ideology, from which it is perceived to have moved away to placate its allies.

Sources at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur said RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat would meet with Rajnath, adding that the Sangh wanted the BJP to adopt the Ramjanmabhoomi as a core issue in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The sources said the Bhagwat-Rajnath talks would also raise the issue of a new working committee.

There is even speculation that Gujarat chief minister and BJP poster boy Narendra Modi may attend, which Gujarat officials in Delhi did not confirm.

A surprise visit on Saturday by BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi for a dip in the holy river also added to talk, but Naqvi was quick to downplay the probability of Modi being named PM candidate at the Kumbh.

Interestingly, Modi's brother Pankaj Modi, was at the Kumbh recently.

VHP leaders also denied there would be any discussions on Modi, and sought to dispel notions of a political Maha Kumbh.

VHP's national general secretary Champat Rai said: "Rajnathji is arriving in our camp in Kumbh mela but the visit should not be seen as a political venture."

Another VHP leader, Prakash Sharma, said: "The Marg Darshak Mandal will meet on February 6 and the Dharma Sansad will be held on February 7.

Both will see resolutions on Ram temple, cow protection, Bangladeshi immigration, conversions and against the motivated charges of Hindu terror."

The Marg Darshak Mandal is a gathering of about 300-odd sadhus with strong VHP presence.

The Dharma Sansad is a gathering of up to 15,000 people, including VHP leaders and leaders of Hindu akharas and acharyas, and is held in open session.

BJP leaders insisted too much should not be read into Rajnath's visit to the Kumbh, reflecting the party's uneasiness with a hardline image even as it seeks to benefit from closeness with the Sangh and the goodwill of its core Hindu constituency.

A year before the Lok Sabha polls, an attempt of the VHP and RSS to get it back to the basics, the ideological family hopes, will benefit the BJP even if it sticks to a parallel governance discourse.

The question is how allies like the JD(U) will read these signs.         

Inputs from Kenneth John in Allahabad


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