Allahabad: BJP president Rajnath Singh, who took a dip in the Ganga at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad today, was present when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad struck a combative note threatening an agitation to demand a law to facilitate the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya.
His presence signals the BJP's acquiescence to a strategic shift back to Hindutva in the run up to the general elections 2014. Mr Singh's support the temple demand was unambiguous. He told NDTV, "The BJP has been committed to these agendas. It is our deep desire to work for a temple," adding that no political inference should be drawn from his presence at meeting of about 250 priests or sants organized by the VHP today. (Pics: BJP's Hindutva blitzkrieg at Kumbh mela)
He also said, "I pray for your blessings for strength to finish the task."
The VHP's Ashok Singhal said today, "if agitation is needed then we need to display our might...the Ram temple will not get built like this. The Ram temple has to come to the people's court." The VHP has said it will conduct elaborate prayers "in all lanes and villages for the Ram temple." It is expected to adopt a declaration at its big meeting today setting a timeline for the construction of the temple.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS and its affiliates like the BJP and the VHP together call themselves the Sangh Parivar or family. At a family gathering last week, the RSS brought together the BJP and the VHP, estranged in recent years, to suggest a return to the Hindutva agenda to win back a traditional votebank. The BJP reportedly agreed, despite some top leaders demurring. (Blog: Amid sadhus and chants, the search for political salvation at Kumbh)
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's recent comment on "saffron terror" is said to have clinched it. The RSS has argued that Mr Shinde's comment, at an election strategy meeting of his party, the Congress, indicates an attempt at polarization of votes by ruling party and an attack on Hindutva, which the BJP can use politically.
A sulking VHP is mollified. Mr Singhal said earlier, "For their own sake also they have to think about it because the Hindus have all these days been feeling that there is no political power behind them and if they want to support the Hindus of this country they have to take up the Hindu agenda in their manifesto."