The former Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) chief Pravin Togadia has been formally done in after the VHP elected Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje as the new chief. Pravin Togadia had been informally leading the VHP since 2003. In 2011 he was formally anointed to the top executive position of the organisation, the international working president. The elections were held at Gurugram in Haryana and the voting took place after B.R. Ambedkar was commemorated on his birth anniversary. The voters elected Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje with a humongous mandate.
Togadia has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Modi ever since Modi removed Gordhan Zadafia from his Gujarat cabinet in 2002. It was then seen by many as a restraint on Togadia’s influence, for the outgoing minister was known to be Togadia’s man.
After this incident, there was an obvious tussle between Modi and Togadia. In fact, there were times when Togadia made avoidable remarks only to embarrass the BJP. For instance, his controversial remark in 2008 about the demolition of temples by the then Gujarat Chief Minister to construct roads, was a blunt attempt to take on Modi who had by then become a cherished and popular leader. Similarly, Togadia showed his true colours in 2012 when he openly sympathised with the former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel’s exit from the BJP. It meant, in effect, extending support to Keshubhai’s Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) which had also merged with Zadafia’s Mahagujarat Janta Party.
This was not the only time that Pravin Togadia assumed that he enjoyed unchallenged leadership and could therefore show a soft heart for the enemies of the BJP. Before the Gujarat elections, however, Togadia’s aversion towards the BJP and his sympathy for the Congress ecosystem came out in the open. Hardik Patel and Congress made full use of Togadia’s Patidar identity in a bid to alienate the Patidars from the BJP. Togadia however remained silent about all this in an attempt to give the impression that the BJP is targeting a top leader from the Patidar community. The fact that Togadia is catering to interests elsewhere and is no longer loyal towards the BJP became crystal clear earlier this year as he went untraceable after a Rajasthan Police team arrived at Ahemdabad to arrest him in connection with a case registered at Sawai Modhpur district. Later he was found in an unconscious state in a park and admitted to a hospital. In a press statement, he resorted to antics and claimed that there was a conspiracy to kill him in a fake encounter. The claim seems outrageous given that Togadia is a Z-plus security level protectee. The Congress tried to make full political use of the situation and sent a senior leader, Arjun Modhvadia, to meet him in the hospital. The idea was to embrace Pravin Togadia with the object of advancing the soft Hindutva agenda that the Congress has been trying to pursue. Togadia’s charge against the Rajasthan Police and an attempt by the Congress to publicly embrace him made it formally clear that Togadia is no longer connected to the cause of VHP and he is just a Congressman at the wrong place.
It seems that the VHP has finally got rid of a politically motivated and self-destructive leader. For years, the BJP and Prime Minister Modi had to contend with Togadia who despite being the president of VHP, had his loyalties elsewhere. He remained the VHP chief for 15 years but his fall could not have been more dramatic. It is true that Togadia’s significance was waning for quite some time now but due to his bizarre political moves and remarks, he ensured his own downfall.