The bad blood between BJP's PM pick Narendra Modi and VHP president Pravin Togadia is boiling over.
Even as the BJP and the RSS defended him on Monday, Togadia's reportedly anti-Muslim comments raised eyebrows in saffron circles, causing some leaders to wonder whether Hindutva hardliners were 'deliberately' trying to throw a spanner in the party's campaign and upset Modi, who was "painstakingly" trying to convey to voters that the party had moved onto a positive agenda.
The BJP poll strategists also worry that the row has reinforced the views of Modi critics that the ugly side of Hindutva will come back with a bang if he becomes PM.
As Togadia's remarks went viral, Modi was said to be very upset. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and other Sangh bigwigs too were displeased as Togadia had been advised to avoid such controversies.
Read: Furore after VHP leader Pravin Togadia warns Muslims against buying properties in 'Hindu areas'
Last year, Togadia was among those Sangh leaders who had vehemently opposed Modi's elevation as PM pick. Given his long-standing rivalry with Modi, Togadia had conveyed to Bhagwat that the Sangh was making a "big" mistake in pushing for Modi as he would eventually turn against them, RSS insiders said.
Togadia's stand was seen as a reflection of the division in the VHP with one section led by Ashok Singhal backing Modi and the other opposed to him.
Subsequently, the RSS decided to back Modi and made it clear to Togadia that he would have to "abide" by its decision.
Read: FIR against VHP leader Pravin Togadia for ‘hate speech’
Earlier this year, Modi had turned down a VHP invitation to share stage with its leaders including Togadia during the Kumbh mela.
Aides close to Modi had then maintained that he did not want his development agenda to be hijacked by his participation in the gathering of hardliners.
The rivarly between Togadia and Modi became more pronounced after the 2002 riots, said a RSS insider.
As Modi sought to move away from the stigma of the 2002 riots, Togadia saw the Gujarat chief minister keen to save himself from the campaign, leaving the VHP leaders in trouble.
In the state polls held in 2007, Modi showed that he could do well without VHP elements. In 2008, Modi got VHP members arrested in Gujarat because they were opposing the demolition of temples when roads in Gandhinagar were being widened.