Saffron fury at BJP’s great betrayal | india | Hindustan Times
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Saffron fury at BJP’s great betrayal

Senior functionaries of Sangh parivar say that the BJP has abandoned the very people who helped it establish supremacy in the state. Neelesh Misra reports.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2007 02:42 IST
Neelesh Misra

There is something hard and painful stuck in the deep divide between the BJP and its Sangh parivar allies in Gujarat, like a fishbone in the throat, that could have important consequences for the state's politics.

It is the long arm of the law.

Senior functionaries of Hindu nationalist organisations told the Hindustan Times that the BJP had abandoned the very people who helped it establish supremacy in Gujarat through decades of grassroots activity. BJP leaders were enjoying the fruits of power while these silent workers were condemned to prison and penury.

They also alleged the BJP had tried to break the unity within these organisations, by courting local leaders of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and like-minded groups directly, bypassing top leaders like Pravin Togadia.

<b1>The National Human Rights Commission has estimated that at least 27,800 people were arrested in the aftermath of the February-March 2002 riots. A senior VHP leader put the figure at 35,000. Those FIRs, arrests and regular court appearances, are at the heart of the conflict. These groups are now paying back the BJP by staying away from campaigning.

“Most of those arrested were VHP workers. What has happened has shown the true face and character of the BJP. So these organisations decided to not campaign for the BJP,” said Chaitanya Shambhu Maharaj, member of the decision-making body of the VHP and state chief of Uma Bharti’s Bharatiya Janashakti Party.

“All those who were with Modi – the RSS, the VHP, Gujarat Kisan Sangh (farmers’ union), Hindu monks — are now against the BJP,” Maharaj told HT. “The foot soldiers who made the BJP come to power, who helped the BJP’s organisation when they had nothing in the villages, went to jail. But the BJP leaders are unconcerned.”

Nowhere does the schism come across more vividly than in Eral village of Panchmahals district, where skinny 72-year-old Shantaben Parmar has left her grandchildren at home to step into the electoral battle to fight the BJP. Seven of her relatives are serving life terms in jail — including her 78-year-old husband and 42-year-old son, found guilty of rape and murder of seven Muslim neighbours. The family had been associated with the BJP for 40 years. Shantaben's husband was also a local leader of the VHP.

“A 78-year-old man has been jailed for rape. This is a wild and false allegation. The crimes were all committed by people who came from outside,” said Shantaben, who is fighting both BJP and Congress candidates.

“This case was brought against our family due to political rivalry. We were destroyed. I don’t know how we survived,” Shantaben said. “This is what the BJP has done to someone who gave his life to it.”

The rise of the BJP in Gujarat owes its success to the organisational work by pro-Hindu groups. In the 1980s, followers of Hindu guru Avichal Das Maharaj tirelessly propagated the Hindu agenda. The RSS, thousands of monks and most prominently, the VHP spent years handholding the party till it came to power in the mid 1990s.

“Recently the BJP began contacting our district level leaders to convince them to help out in the campaign. They tried to break our unity,” a regional VHP leader said, declining to be named. “Narendrabhai Modi should have sat down to discuss all this with Pravinbhai Togadia, but he was not consulted.”

BJP leaders declined to comment. “We pleaded with the BJP. We said our family was innocent. I used to tie a rakhi to our Muslim neighbours’ wrists, they were my brothers,” said a tearful Dhanumatiben, Parmar’s daughter.

Parmar’s campaign vehicle has illustrations of her husband and son behind prison bars painted on its exterior. “Modi wants to show that ‘I am not the Modi of 2002, I am the Modi of 2007’,” said the daughter.