November 21, 2008 11:34:41 am
Vishwa Hindu Parishad, marginalised in the state by the Modi Government, is trying to pull its act together to confront the Chief Minister who is working zealously to demolish unauthorised temples coming in the way of development.
The state Government in the past week has brought down over 90 religious structures, mostly temples, annoying saffron groups — VHP, Bajrang Dal and others — and a section of politically inclined sadhus.
The government action has displeased the saffron workers to such an extent that VHP’s national leader Ashok Singhal, who was here to do spot assessment of the situation, had to calm their frayed nerves.
State VHP leaders who had worked hard to see Modi coming to power in 2002, now call him an opportunist. “Not temples, he is demolishing Hindutva,” said VHP state secretary Ranchod Bharwad.
“When there was Hindutva wave in the state, he rode it to grab power. Now when all Indian states are vying to destroy Hindutva, Modi wants to take the lead,” he said.
The demolition of temples is a double whammy for VHP, which is yet to come to terms with the arrest of the party’s general secretary Ashwin Patel and slapping of sedition charges on him for circulating anti-Modi SMSs after the July 26 blasts in Ahmedabad. The VHP had made a din and its leaders had courted arrests then. But Modi had paid no heed.
Behind the unprecedented temple demolition drive is a survey done by the Gadhinagar Collector that had revealed encroachment of pubic space and roads in the state capital by over 310 religious structures.
The demolition drive began quietly around Diwali, and was noticed only after six temples were razed. Soon, it took a political turn.
A Mandir Bachao Samiti has been formed consisting saffron groups, political parties like Maha Gujarat Janta Party- formed by BJP rebels- and others.
The VHP has been trying to convey its protest message loud and clear by conducting rallies and meetings. In Surat also, where a similar temple razing drive is on, violent demonstrations were held.
But Modi does not appear to be perturbed. On Thursday, state Revenue Minister Anandi Patel called a conference of District Collectors to discuss revenue records and encroachments. What might have encouraged the minister further is the fact that
Gandhinagar bandh call given by the Mandir Bachao Samiti on Wednesday evoked little response.
The VHP rubbishes Modi’s development agenda. “Development cannot be achieved by demolishing only temples. Not one out of several mazaars situated around official residences of VIPs has been touched,” said Bharwad.
The Maha Gujarat Janta Party, headed by former State Home Minister Gordhan Zadafia, too has criticised Modi. “He (Modi) wants to project himself as a secular leader ahead of the Lok Sabha elections,” said Zadafia.
The BJP, on its part, has remained remarkably silent over the issue. It, however, indicated that it desires to patch up with the VHP. “If a structure is illegal, it should be removed. But we also need to talk to the VHP to address the growing rift between us,” said BJP state president Purshottam Rupala.
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