It was not so long ago that Pravin Togadia roared like a lion (at least to the ears of his believers). Though it's a different matter that over the past few years, both the number of people sympathetic to his hardline Hindutva and his vitriol diminished.
But on Tuesday, when Todagia appeared at a press conference to speak about his mysterious disappearance (he was brought to a private Ahmedabad hospital in an unconscious state while the Rajasthan Police was in Gujarat with a warrant for his arrest) he tried to play the victim card.
He said he was hunted by people who had previously been friends and were part of the larger saffron parivar. During that 15-minute media briefing, he broke down on more than one occasion.
Togadia was "unwell" and undergoing treatment at a hospital, but that does not explain why he chose to hold a press conference rather than wait until he'd recovered.
Togadia was apparently in a hurry to make a sensational disclosure: That there was a conspiracy to eliminate him in an encounter on Monday morning. He tried to suggest that a combined team of Rajasthan and Gujarat Police was on the move to kill him.
His statement raised more questions than he thought he answered: First, he said he was informed of the conspiracy by someone within the VHP while he was praying in the morning. Togadia was apparently advised to leave VHP headquarters immediately. Togadia, for those not in the know, has 'Z Plus' security cover. Which means he is guarded 24x7 by some of the best para-military security personnel.
Even if Togadia thought a team of Rajasthan and Gujarat Police were on their way to kill him (and let us for a moment assume that was the case), Togadia was safely ensconced amidst his followers at VHP headquarters. There couldn't be a more foolish time and place to conduct such an imaginary encounter.
Second, let's look at what Togadia did to secure himself. He gave the commandos guarding him the slip and left with a VHP companion in an auto. After making some calls to the high and mighty (Rajasthan chief minister and Gujarat home minister), Togadia turned off his phone so that he could not be tracked.
Third, after landing at the home of a VHP associate and making calls to folks all over the country, Togadia left for the airport in another autorickshaw (without a ticket or any flight details) to head to Jaipur and surrender before court. But on the way, he seemingly fell unconscious. Which does not explain how he was found inside a park (from where he was then taken to hospital). Togadia is a doctor. He was a cancer surgeon. He should have known what was ailing him.
Fourth, Togadia claimed his voice was being silenced by the powers that be. And yet, there he was, holding a press conference and sending his voice all over the country and indeed, the world. Remember, Togadia is working present of the VHP and is supposedly catering to an international Hindu audience. Unfortunately for Togadia, his claims made headlines, but did not cause a political earthquake.
The sad irony for Togadia, a man that was once such a towering figure within the Sangh Parivar, was that even after he claimed that there was a serious threat to his life, no Parivar leader called on him, he was offered no words of support or sympathy from his friends and associates from the larger saffron parivar. He, however, drew sympathy and support from the unlikeliest of quarters: The Congress party and Patidar activist Hardik Patel.
Togadia is from the Patidar community. It was, therefore, not surprising that Hardik, in his continuing endeavour for political relevance, landed at hospital to extend his support to Togadia and in turn, hoped to gain some support in the community. It is not known whether Togadia and Hardik — who acted as an ally of the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi — were in touch during Gujarat election when the Congress and the Patidar community were challenging Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah or if this was a one-off meeting.
What made bigger news than Togadia’s claims was former Congress president Arjun Modhwadia promptly paying a visit to his hospital room. The pictures of Togadia and Modhwadia carrying on a cordial manner and smiling reminded one of two old sayings: “There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics” and “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
The Congress has some explaining to do over the Todagia-Modhwadia meet. Modhwadia clearly forgot what his party colleague, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said about the BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal. "They are themselves like terrorists in a way. BJP, RSS and Bajrang Dal also have terrorists within... Whether it is the Popular Front of India (PFI), Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad or any other organisation... if they indulge in disturbing harmony and brotherhood in the society, and spread communalism, they will not be tolerated." Whether Togadia remembered Siddaramaiah’s remark when he met Modhwadia is anyone's guess.
But what is clear is that within the VHP and the Sangh Parivar, Togadia has been marginalised. He may be the working president of the VHP, but that is a nominated post and made as per the wishes of the party president. The fact is, internal conflicts in the VHP have become so strong, it had to indefinitely postpone election of its new president. That election will decide Togadia's fate and an influential section of the Sangh Parivar does not want Togadia in a powerful position.
While recuperating in his hospital bed, Togadia will have enough time to reflect and wonder why he has become so lonely in his own outfit that he had to look for friends in the Congress. More so, at a time when his once upon a time friend Narendra Modi rules the nation and the BJP (a party that was once dear to him) rules Gujarat.
Updated Date: Jan 17, 2018 12:10 PM