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End of hardline Hindutva in VHP after Togadia’s ouster from cabinet?

Togadia has already dubbed his ouster as evidence of the VHP caving into pressure from the government

india Updated: Apr 15, 2018 07:35 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
VHP chief Praveen Togadia is known for inflammatory speeches on issues such as cow slaughter and interfaith marriages.
VHP chief Praveen Togadia is known for inflammatory speeches on issues such as cow slaughter and interfaith marriages.(HT File Photo)

Praveen Togadia’s ouster from the central board or cabinet of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) should not be read as a sign of the organisation deviating from its hardline stance, said senior functionaries of the Rashtriya Swayamsevask Sangh (RSS) on Saturday. The VHP is an affiliate of the Sangh.

A vocal critic of the Narendra Modi government, Togadia, who is known for inflammatory speeches on issues such as cow slaughter and interfaith marriages, has already dubbed his ouster as evidence of the VHP caving into pressure from the government. “Now, today, it is very shocking and saddening to see such a grand VHP, that we all built to this fantastic level, has been made to bend before power, not for Hindu well-being but for individual whims and fancies of some power mongers,” he said.

However, senior Sangh functionaries differ. They point out that with the election of former governor VS Kokje as international president and advocate Alok Kumar as working president, the organisation has picked “legal luminaries” who will play a crucial role in the hearing of the Ram Temple issue in the Supreme Court.

“There is little role for the VHP or Togadia in the Ram Temple movement now. The issue is in court and the government has made it clear that the issue will be resolved through legal intervention. In such a scenario, a change at the top does not indicate shift in ideology,” said an RSS watcher, not wishing to be named. On speculation that Togadia was dropped to save the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government the blushes ahead of the 2019 polls, a senior Sangh functionary said: “While the Sangh allows discussion and debate, his harsh criticism didn’t win him any friends.”

Another functionary, however, said it was too soon to write off Togadia, as 60 of the 192 eligible voters had voted for Raghava Reddy, who is close to him. Togadia was the working president under Reddy, who was the international president for three terms. “It is not a small number. This indicates there are still many who chose to vote independent of the overall sentiment, since it was clear that Kokje’s appointment had the approval of the brass,” he said.

Kokje is considered close to RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi, who retained his position for the fourth term in March. Togadia, on the other hand, has had a public falling out with Modi and not received much support from the Sangh Parivar.