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RSS Gets its Way as Pravin Togadia Leaves VHP, But Divisions Within a Matter of Concern

The battle lines between Pravin Togadia supporters and the RSS were drawn at VHP national executive at Bhuvneshwar in December last year. Matters came to head in presence of RSS second-in-command Bhaiyyaji Joshi. The RSS-backed candidate Vishnu Sadasiv Kokje was opposed by Togadia who insisted on division.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:April 14, 2018, 11:45 PM IST
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RSS Gets its Way as Pravin Togadia Leaves VHP, But Divisions Within a Matter of Concern
A file photo of VHP leader Pravin Togadia (File photo: PTI)
New Delhi: Pravin Togadia’s long yet at times tenuous relationship with the Vishva Hindu Parishad has come to an end.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has finally had its way in electing a VHP president of its choice – former Himanchal Pradesh governor Vishnu Sadasiv Kokje.

Togadia's nominee in the secret ballot managed to get 60 votes as against 132 for Kokje. This, despite RSS coming out in open support of the candidate of its choice, is indicative of the deep divisions within.

With Saturday’s election, a long-drawn battle within the VHP comes to an end. Or, has it just started with Togadia vowing to go on an indefinite fast next week to press for the construction of Ram Temple?

The battle lines between Togadia supporters and the RSS were drawn at VHP national executive at Bhuvneshwar in December last year. Matters came to head in presence of RSS second-in-command Bhaiyyaji Joshi. The RSS-backed candidate Kokje was opposed by Togadia who insisted on division.

“The larger worry for the RSS is that VHP – along with the BJP – is the only other Sangh affiliate with a large mass base. Such leadership issues raise fundamental questions in an organisation which gives precedence to the institution than an individual,” a senior RSS leader told News18 just after the Bhuvneshwar confrontation.

Facing a stiff challenge, Joshi announced that elections were being postponed and would be held at a later date. Sangh was apparently caught off-guard, as never in the history of its affiliate, a secret ballot was held to nominate a new president and the team.

In fact, sources say Togadia had prior information about his removal. Ahead of the meeting, he had a conversation in this regard with Bhaiyyaji Joshi in Orissa.

“But RSS thought that it would be able to oversee a change in VHP leadership without much resistance. What the Sangh did not take into consideration is that leaders working in mass based organisations develop a following of their own,” senior RSS leader had told News18.

The VHP, although established in mid-60s, gained traction two decades later when the RSS handed over the leadership to its then prant pracharak of Himachal Pradesh, Ashok Singhal. Senior RSS leader Modopant Pingle was also deputed to oversee its proliferation in the aftermath of Meenakshipuram conversions of Dalits to Islam.

Sighal led the VHP during Ram Temple movement, and until the time he was around, his writ ran large in the organisation. After Singhal’s death, Togadia is seen to be the tallest leader within.

But Togadia, who hails from Gujarat, over the years has had his share of run-ins with the current leadership in the BJP.

With Lok Sabha elections due next year, the decision to replace Togadia came as the Supreme Court also began hearing the Ayodhya title suit.

“Togadia was asked by the RSS to manage the Hindu Helpline, aimed at helping members of the community in cases of emergencies. The showdown in Bhubaneshwar was a message from the Togadia camp about their support base within,” says an RSS leader aware of the developments.

So the RSS bided its time. The efforts to mobilise support for Kokje gathered momentum at its general Body meeting (Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha) at Nagpur last month.

When it was sure it had the numbers, VHP called for a vote at Gurugram this Saturday to inflict a comprehensive defeat on Togadia’s nominee for VHP President’s post.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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