The Hindutva agenda makes a comeback at a meeting of sants
or priests backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS at the Kumbh mela being held in Uttar Pradesh. The meeting was to have begun today, but, in a last-minute change, will now only be a one-day affair tomorrow.
As a cautious first step towards resurrecting what was once the main political plank of the BJP, a new deadline for the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya is expected to be announced. RSS affiliate Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the VHP, which is organising the event, has begun distributing pamphlets on the Ram temple and the focus of deliberations will reportedly be on how to harness a soft Hindutva appeal in the run-up to the 2014 general elections.
The RSS says it plans to cover three lakh villages in its "Hindu awakening" drive in the next year. Top RSS functionaries and BJP leaders are expected to attend the Kumbh meeting, including new party president Rajnath Singh.
But Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will not be there. The VHP says it has not invited Mr Modi. It has also denied much speculation that the meet will endorse Mr Modi as the best BJP candidate for Prime Minister in 2014.
Sources say Mr Modi is being strategically kept away. The RSS' plan for 2014 is two-pronged - while the VHP and RSS will focus on Hindutva, the BJP will continue its efforts to win votes on an agenda of good governance. Mr Modi, who has painstakingly attempted to repackage himself, will be part of the latter exercise.
The plan so far, sources say, is to induct Mr Modi into the party's parliamentary board. Mr Modi is also expected to be given charge of the party's campaign committee for the Lok Sabha elections and as such will be the face of the party.
Rajnath Singh has appealed to partymen not to participate in Modi-for-PM discussions. Apart from crucial allies like the Janata Dal (United) bristling, Mr Modi himself is reportedly uncomfortable at such discussions at a premature stage. He is expected to attend the Mahakumbh mela next week, after the VHP event has finished.