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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Temple towns junk Hindutva
Raveen Thukral, PTI
Somnath/Dwarka, December 10, 2002
First Published: 01:10 IST(10/12/2002)
Last Updated: 01:10 IST(10/12/2002)

The irony would not have escaped the BJP's election strategists. The party is unable to sell its brand of aggressive Hinduism even in Hinduism's sacred cities of Dwarka and Somnath.

Anti-incumbency and the contentious issue of the opening of slaughterhouses in Saurashtra threaten to upset the BJP's calculations in Somnath.

The Narendra Modi government's decision to permit the opening of slaughterhouses in this part of the state has angered the people of these two cities who aren't buying the BJP's Hindutva-centric campaign agenda.

What is also causing concern to BJP is that some of the local VHP units in the Saurashtra region, irked by the government's decision, have refused to back the BJP's campaign.

The Congress, predictably, is making the most of controversy, with its state leadership missing no opportunity to hit out at the BJP. As GPCC president Shankersinh Vaghela put it, "The party which begged for votes in the name of Hindutva is neither in touch with the religion nor is it a gaubhakta (cow worshipper)."

Former PCC president Amarsinh Chaudhary said if the Congress comes to power, "we will not allow the opening of a single slaughterhouse in the state".

The issue has pushed the BJP into a corner in the temple city of Somnath, home to one of the 12 Jyotirlings of India. The sitting BJP MLA, Goehl Chunilal Kanji, who won the last assembly election by an impressive margin of 20,045 votes, has nothing to show in terms of performance.

Though the BJP won this seat in 1995 also, things are different this time. The Congress has put Jassa Bhai Brar, who is also considered to be Vaghela's right-hand man in the region, in the fray. Jassa was a minister in Vaghela's government and had rebelled against the BJP.

Vaghela’s former outfit, the All India Rashtriya Janata Party, had secured 19,451 votes last time in a multi-cornered contest. However, this time it's a direct fight with the BJP.

As for Dwarka, one of the four principal dham yatras of Hinduism, the BJP has never won this seat. While the Congress won it in 1975 and 1980, independent candidate Manek Pabubha has won it since 1990. With Manek joining the Congress, the party's prospects of once again winning this seat have brightened.


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