|K. SUBRAHMANYA, The Telegraph, Tuesday, May 06, 2003|
New Delhi, May 5: The Congress and the Samajwadi Party today criticised the deputy Prime Minister for forgetting his assurance and letting Praveen Togadia carry on with his “trishul diksha” here on Sunday — that too at a price.
The Congress raised the issue first in both Houses of Parliament with Suresh Pachouri demanding the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader’s arrest under the anti-terror law. The Delhi trishul distribution was Togadia’s first after his arrest in Rajasthan for the same reason last month.
Congress’ Gujarat MP Praveen Rashtrapal was more strident in his criticism of L.K. Advani for facilitating Togadia’s programme, which, he said, was meant to trigger communal polarisation.
Trishul diksha, Rashtrapal said, was a misnomer as tridents were sold for anything between Rs 50 and Rs 250.
The Samajwadi’s Lok Sabha member, Ramji Lal Suman, almost accused Advani of turning a blind eye to the diksha though he had earlier assured not to allow it.
According to Rashtrapal, the Delhi police — under Advani’s direct charge — had arrested those, including the Delhi Youth Congress chief, who were protesting against the distribution instead of arresting Togadia.
Congress’ Satyavrata Chaturvedi charged the BJP with backing Togadia, a Sangh parivar member. Unless the Centre took firm steps to rein in the VHP leader’s “anti-national” activities, he might pose a big threat to communal harmony in the country, Chaturvedi said.
The Congress, however, diluted its demand within hours when Chaturvedi, also a party spokesman, said his party did not have an all-India position on Togadia’s trishul diksha.
He was responding to journalists’ queries about Kerala chief minister A.K. Antony’s reported remarks that he would not oppose Togadia if he distributed tridents in his state.
Chaturvedi said he was unaware of Antony’s remarks. Congress chief ministers, he said, could take a stand on trident distribution depending on their assessment of a likely law and order problem. “Each (Congress-ruled) state will take its own decision.”
In the Lok Sabha, BJP’s V.K. Malhotra said: “The BJP has nothing to do with this trishul distribution. But even Aurangzeb had banned trishuls. The ban only increased its popularity.”
In the Rajya Sabha, parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said Opposition members’ concern would be conveyed to the deputy Prime Minister. But leader of the Opposition in the Upper House Manmohan Singh demanded a statement from Advani.
An uncertain state BJP had earlier supported Togadia in Rajasthan. But once the party’s Central leadership came to know of the poor response to the arrest, the state unit was told to call off its dharna and distance itself from the VHP.
“We figured out that it was counterproductive to support trishuls and rabble-rousers once (Rajasthan chief minister Ashok) Gehlot brought development on the agenda,” a BJP central office-bearer said.
The party was pushed further on the backfoot when Advani reportedly advised Togadia and Ashok Singhal to junk the diksha agenda at last week’s BJP-RSS conclave. The report was denied, but a day after the conclave ended, Togadia distributed tridents in Delhi.