Amidst ‘match fixing’ charges, the first day of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Chaurasi (84) Kos Padyatra ended with both the teams, the Uttar Pradesh government and the VHP, returning to the pavilion satisfied at having kept their audience, or vote banks, engaged.
Soon after the Sunday’s match got underway, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tweeted that the “game was fixed”.
Despite the charge, the situation attracted national attention and TV viewership soared as live action unfolded along the banks of the Saryu river where sadhus from ‘Team VHP’ took on the police from ‘Team UP.’
There were some early strikes – former BJP MP Ram Vilas Vedanti, a member of the VHP’s marg darshak mandal, was dismissed cheaply as was Ram Janambhoomi Nyas chief Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. Both of them along with former BJP MLA from Ayodhya Lallu Singh were arrested by the UP police early on Sunday.
However, VHP president Pravin Togadia then arrived to play a cameo at Gola Ghat ground and managed to confuse the police, which appeared clueless on how to contain the ‘rampaging’ Togadia. Mahant Ram Ishwar Das of Ayodhya’s Raghunath Bhawan who was accompanying Togadia fainted as the police mounted pressure on the team.
By the time Togadia got arrested, he had ensured (there were allegations that he was allowed to do so) a decent ‘score’ for his ‘Team VHP’. While the police eventually got him, Togadia announced a nationwide protest on Monday.
“Entire VHP cadre would join in the protests against this illegal and undemocratic police action which is an insult to the Ram temple cause for which we have toiled so hard,” he said before he was virtually forced out of the Gola Ghat ground by Team UP, which even requisitioned the ‘blue hawk’ commandos to move Togadia away.
During the day, there were heated arguments, jostling and sloganeering. But that was expected with both sides trying hard to ensure that they didn’t let their backers, read voters, down.
Inspired by their captain’s effort, the Team VHP’s middle order -- national VHP general secretary Champat Rai, Mahant Kamal Nayan Das and Digambar Akhara’s Suresh Das -- and tail enders -- various saints who had come from different places along the banks of the Saryu -- put up some resistance.
The police performance helped Team UP to bolster its pro-minority credentials. So, it is even-Stevens for now but Monday would be another day.