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To understand why Parivar’s frowning at Modi, look at this Togadia on a swing

To get to Vithalbhai Togadia’s house, take the narrow road that winds between cotton fields to Sajantimba village...

Written by Vanditamishra | Amreli (gujarat) |
December 9, 2007 12:27:55 am

To get to Vithalbhai Togadia’s house, take the narrow road that winds between cotton fields to Sajantimba village, about 25 km from Amreli town. The younger brother of Pravin Togadia, international general secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, lives in what is known in these parts as a “dahela”, or a haveli. Inside, a Maruti 800 and a bullock cart are parked in the spacious courtyard flanked by rooms on both sides.

In the middle of the living room to the left, Vithalbhai rocks himself on a large swing and smiles.

It’s a I-will-give-you-no-answers smile. I am just a cotton farmer, he says. No, I am not involved in politics, he says. I have no comments on my brother’s politics, and no views on the Gujarat government, Modi or the BJP. Pravin Togadia’s brother admits that he thinks it may be the Congress’s turn in Gujarat because “every few years, the people want change”. But he denies that in these elections he has been campaigning for the Congress party.

Vithalbhai’s smile cannot cover up Amreli’s open secret. “Of course, he is campaigning for me”, says Becharbhai Bhadani, the Congress candidate for the Lileya-Lathi seat, as he sits in the Congress office at Lathi surrounded by campaign posters featuring Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and less prominently, Manmohan Singh. Becharbhai was a BJP MLA for 15 years.

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Fifteen days ago, he switched to the Congress. “Vithalbhai was a BJP worker and taluka panchayat president for five years. Now he is with me, and it will work in my favour.”

Amid his supporters just 2 km away, BJP candidate Hanubhai Dhoragiya is scornful. “Vithalbhai roams with Bhadani from one village to another, but it won’t make any difference at all,” he says. “He may be Pravinbhai’s brother, but people don’t know him even in his own village”.

In one sense, the fact that Pravin Togadia’s brother has crossed to the other side of the fence should seem not so startling in a state where the Congress and BJP share more intimacies at ground level than either party would care to acknowledge at election time. It is not uncommon for candidates to switch from one party to the other. This time, and particularly in Amreli, the Congress has doled out tickets to BJP’s Leuva Patel rebels at the risk of stoking resentment within.

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Yet this election is markedly different, and Vithalbhai Togadia’s sly switch illustrates it. The Patel rebellion is noisy and attracts more attention, perhaps more than it deserves, but everyone has noticed the sullen silence of the Parivar.

People here remember how workers of the RSS and other Sangh Parivar affiliates like the VHP, Bajrang Dal, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh alongwith sadhus of assorted sects, campaigned fiercely for the BJP in earlier elections, especially in the post-carnage election of 2002. Not this time.

At Lileya tehsil in district Amreli, Ghanshyam Bhai Singhala, farmer, says that the sant samaj called a meeting one month ago and openly asked the people to defeat Modi and bring in the Congress. Even BJP workers admit that Campaign 2007 is marked by “nishkriyata”, or inactivity, if not outright opposition in the Parivar. The list of complaints is long but the reason is only Narendra Modi.

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“At Bhavnagar, the Modi government obstructed the trishul diksha programme of the Bajrang Dal, registered FIRs against our karyakarta. This year’s Jagannath Yatra was stalled because of this sudden ban on talwars and trishuls which never happened even under Congress governments”, recalls Nirmalbhai Khuman, organizing secretary of Bhavnagar Vibhag of the VHP.

Prafulbhai Senjalia, the saffron-robed president of Gujarat Kisan Sangh which has its strongest presence in Rajkot and Amreli, says “This government has only been about Modi, our organization has made no progress in this regime…Modi doesn’t meet us, or consult us.”

Senjalia has more specific gripes too: like Modi’s pet scheme of Jyotigram, which he says has assured electricity to industry by taking it away from the farm. Or, the price paid to the farmer for his produce because of which, he says, Gujarat has seen a large number of farmers’ suicides in the last two years, mostly in Junagadh. “Our inactivity in this election, especially in the 40-45 seats the BJP won with narrow margins last time, will cost Modi dear” he claims.

A stalwart RSS leader of this region, who asks not to be named, sums up the Parivar problem: “Narendrabhai converted the electoral triumph of 2002 into ‘my victory’. We have warned the BJP about Modi, that he is arrogant, that he nurtures a personality cult. His own ministers are not allowed to take decisions, so complete is the centralization of power…But Advani is not ready to listen,” he laments. “Modi has only used our help to gain power. His Hindutva is entirely opportunistic.” Still others accuse Modi of working up divisions in every organization in the Parivar to his advantage. So come to Gujarat before Mandate 2007 to feel the tremulous silence of the parivar. The Kisan Sangh is sulking in the villages and the RSS and VHP are withdrawn in the cities. Will it turn the electoral outcome? Keep in mind that Modi was seen to win the last municipal and panchayat polls almost on his own, without help from the Parivar.

But this is clear: The Parivar is less of a monolith and more divided than it ever was — and so also the political force that is Hindutva. Its many shades have been exposed. And Modi represents only his own.

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First published on: 09-12-2007 at 12:27:55 am

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