Allahabad: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad put the BJP in a piquant spot today, declaring at a gathering of 2 lakh priests or saints at the Kumbh mela, and with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat present, that it supports Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the BJP's candidate for Prime Minister in 2014.
The RSS affiliate said Modi was a "mascot for Hindutva", who had helped his party win "even in Muslim-dominated areas in Gujarat, without giving tickets to any Muslim." The VHP has not had the best relations with Mr Modi in the recent past ever since he began his attempt at an image makeover from hardline Hindutva leader to an ambassador of development and good governance.
Mr Modi himself has stayed away from the RSS-led relaunch of the Hindutva agenda at the Kumbh mela this week. The VHP had earlier denied that it had invited Mr Modi for its meetings of sants and had also denied speculation that it would endorse his name as the best bet for PM in the BJP.
But VHP chief Ashok Singhal had said over the weekend that Mr Modi was "the most popular BJP leader," and today rubbished another VHP leader Parveen Togadia's opposition to the Gujarat Chief Minister.
Mr Modi's party, the BJP, remains divided over whether Mr Modi should be announced as its candidate for PM ahead of next year's general election.
Earlier in the day, RSS chief Bhagwat endorsed a resolution passed by the VHP on the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya; the RSS wants an unambiguous return to Hindutva politics. "Why do we have to plead for a Ram mandir? Because it's an issue involving a temple? This is for re-establishing Indian identity," he said.
The VHP set the tone yesterday threatening to launch an agitation if a law to facilitate the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is not passed soon.
BJP president Rajnath Singh attended a VHP meet of sants and supported the temple demand. "It is our deep desire to work for a temple...I pray for your blessings for strength to finish the task," he said.
The RSS, which is the ideological mentor of both the VHP and the BJP, has mandated the relaunch of the Hindutva agenda for the general elections next year. It reportedly wants an emphatic return of the BJP on that path and is said to favour dissociating from National Democratic Alliance or NDA allies like the Janata Dal (United) who would hold the party back from this.
The way to do this, the RSS says, is to win enough seats in the general elections and not need the allies at all. Wooing a traditional votebank in the next one year is the way ahead, it says.
Many top leaders in the BJP reportedly see faults in the RSS' hardline plan. The original Hindutva mascot, Narendra Modi, was far away in Delhi yesterday talking to young people about good governance and a new, empowered, young India, when his party president was registering the BJP's commitment to building the Ram temple. ''Vote bank politics has destroyed India. We need development politics,'' said the Gujarat Chief Minister at the prestigious SRCC college.
Senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, and even LK Advani, once a visible part of the Ram temple and Hindutva movement, too now see more benefit in projecting a progressive political party that talks about development.