Life in Gurgaon

Mandir Movement Belongs to VHP, Others Only Try to Own It For The Limelight: Shridhar Damle

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Shridhar Damle, who co-authored the book “RSS, A View to The Inside” with American academic Walter K Andersen, says that though the Sangh wants the Narendra Modi government to continue, it believes the Congress at a localised level would not oppose the construction of a grand temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

While the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has suspended its mandir campaign till the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as the organisation does not want it to become a poll issue. The decision was taken after the conclusion of Dharam Sansad held on the sidelines of Kumbh, in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.

Two days earlier, Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati, who too camped at the biggest congregation of Hindus across the globe, announced that the foundation stone for a grand Ram Temple will be laid at the disputed site in Ayodhya on February 21.

Damle speaks to News’s Eram Agha on the past and future of the temple movement.

Edited excerpts

What do you have to say about the recently concluded ‘Dharam Sansad’ by VHP in Prayagraj and ‘Param Dharam Sansad’?

The goal of VHP was to organise the Hindu society through religious leaders, but as most of them have different personalities and their own agendas, it creates a problem.

Is it for the first time that the VHP faced the challenge?

This has been happening since the beginning of VHP’s journey. It is difficult to keep religious leaders together with a common agenda. Ram Janmabhoomi, Amarnath Yatra or Sabarimala are populist and sensitive issues of faith for the Hindu society. These issues are a way to keep religious leaders together as they have a large-scale public support and act checks and balances to political parties.

What is the relevance of February 21, 2019, when Swaroopanand plans to lay the foundation stone for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya? Where does the VHP stand in the agitation?

The movement of Ram temple belongs to the VHP. Others can try to own it to be in the limelight, but it is VHP’s. During the Ramjanmabhoomi stir in the 90’s, Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao had used Chandraswamy (self-styled godman who rose to national prominence due to his closeness to the former PM) to divide the VHP.