Saffron spread

In February 2005, VHP leader Ashok Singhal stood firmly by the then king, Gyanendra,when he took over all executive powers, promising to end “terrorism”, bring democracy on track and hand back powers to political parties eventually. Singhal, however, failed to bring the RSS and BJP around to his view on Nepal, and watched helplessly when Nepal transformed into a “secular republic”, with active support from the Indian government.

Singhal has apparently been down all these years, but resurfaced in Nepal with an aggressive agenda to restore its lost status as a “Hindu nation”. On his arrival last week in eastern Nepal’s Chatara Dham, which is hosting a “Kumbh Mela” for the first time, prominent parliamentarian Pawan Sharda gave him a hero’s welcome and touched his feet. The VHP leader announced that Modi’s assumption of the prime minister’s responsibility in India will lead to Nepal’s return to Hindu status.

Chatara Kumbh has already attracted a huge number of sadhus from India, a large number of them pro-BJP, and some known to be affiliated to the Congress. But both groups seem to believe that Nepal was declared a secular country in haste “under influence from European countries, and their churches operating in Nepal.”

“It was the United States and the European Union that were responsible for Nepal, the world’s only Hindu Kingdom, being turned into a secular state”, Singhal said. “Some leader like Modi has to appear on the scene here and counter all these external activities.” Singhal’s return to Nepal comes almost nine years after his previous political attempts apparently failed. But the leading player of the Ayodhya movement that saw the demolition of the Babri Masjid way back in December 1992 appeared as militant as before, asserting that he will mobilise people and prepare them for any kind of action, any sacrifice, to have Nepal officially declared the world’s only Hindu nation again.

Singhal was silent on the issue of monarchy. But Chatara Kumbh will be the venue where the deposed king, Gyanendra Shah, and Singhal will meet. Singhal seems to have a large agenda for Nepal, including the setting up of around 7,000 “Ekal Vidhyalayas”, schools run by the Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh, the RSS outfit in Nepal. The RSS has deputed more than a dozen pracharaks (full timers) to Nepal to fulfil its agenda, and if Singhal is to be believed, if Modi becomes prime minister, it will have some “much desired results”.

Nepal’s political class, including the ruling coalition, understandably is silent on India’s electoral prospects, but they know that the outcome would not be without impact. The ruling coalition has enjoyed all cooperation from the Manmohan Singh-led government during the past eight years of radical changes, and four years of failed endeavour to write the much-promised constitution and institutionalise those changes. The pro-monarchy forces as well as those opposed to radical changes favour Modi, hoping that he will at least have India’s Nepal policy reviewed.

Since 1996, the year the Nepali Maoists waged war against the state, demanding the abolition of the monarchy, India’s Union home ministry often talked about a “Compact Revolutionary Zone” (CRZ), connecting Tirupati in India with Pashupati in Nepal, which was being built by the Maoists of the two countries. The BJP was the most vocal party opposed to the perceived CRZ, demanding that the government crush it with state force if necessary. However, even though the government of India successfully mediated to bring the Nepali Maoists and seven political parties together in November 2005 against the monarchy, ostensibly for peace and democracy in Nepal, the Manmohan Singh government began targeting the Indian Maoists as the source of the “red menace” inside the country . But in all likelihood, it will be difficult, in the event of Modi becoming prime minister, for India to continue to work with the Maoists in Nepal, a clear central point of the UPA government.

In contrast, Modi’s electoral campaign envisages connecting Somnath (Gujarat), Vishwanath (Varanasi) and Pashupatinath (Nepal) to consolidate Hindus and integrate them culturally . While Modi is focusing more on “development”, maintaining silence on the issue of Hindutva during his election campaign so far, Singhal has more or less spoken on behalf of Modi beyond the border. “Why are Nepalis silent? They need a Modi here as well”, he said at a public function in Nepal.

Singhal has not only cashed in on the anger and frustration of the Nepalese people directed at their errant politicians, but also found an ideal opportunity to take on the Nepalese and Indian actors who together had favoured radical changes and launched a tirade against the VHP leader nine years ago. Right or wrong, Singhal has proved in his nearly seven-decade-long association with the RSS that he has enough patience and total dedication to the cause he takes up.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com