The Bharatiya Janata Party is sending out messages to sadhus seeking to whip up a saffron tide for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. The outreach is being conducted on a massive scale in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with support from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and its affiliate the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The Sangh Parivar leaders are using direct messaging and appeals to placate the sadhus, a large number of whom are upset over the BJP government’s failure to fulfil its 2014 Lok Sabha election promise regarding the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya before the end of its term.
According to Rameshji Maharaj, a sadhu based in Mauganj town of Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa district, the union home minister Rajnath Singh has sent a text message to religious leaders assuring them that the BJP would fulfil its temple promise, irrespective of the pending Supreme Court judgment on the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site. “Rajnath Singh’s message has been sent to all prominent sadhus who are associated with the Sangh Parivar,” Maharaj, who is a member of the VHP’s Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal—its central governing council, which is a body of sadhus—said.
Rameshji has been associated with the VHP since 1992, and works mainly in the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh. “The assurance was reiterated in the meeting of the local heads of the RSS and its affiliates at Mauganj on 15 April,” he said. He added that the meeting was called by Surendra, an RSS pracharak—full-time worker—who is in-charge of the vibhag, or division, which covers the districts of Rewa, Sidhi and Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh.
“A good number of local sadhus were also invited,” Rameshji continued. “They supported me when I raised the temple issue. Surendraji then referred to the message of Rajnath Singh and said that the next BJP government would not be found lacking on this front and that it would bring legislation for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya if the Supreme Court judgment goes against it.” Rameshji added that the RSS office-bearers were conducting similar meetings in other parts of the country as well.
For quite some time, especially during the last year of the BJP government’s tenure, the Sangh has been experiencing turbulent ties with sadhus on the question of the Ram temple. This became evident during the Ardh-Kumbh Mela—which is held in between two Kumbhs, a mass Hindu pilgrimage that takes place every 12 years—held in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj, earlier this year. For the first time, several religious leaders boycotted the VHP’s Dharma Sansad, a much-hyped two-day conclave of sadhus at the Ardh-Kumbh. Winning them back and making them work towards mobilising Hindus in favour of the BJP, in the manner they did during the previous Lok Sabha elections, has become a major challenge for the Sangh Parivar.