Cong. decides to take VHP head on

NEW DELHI April 15. The Rajasthan Government's decision to arrest the Vishwa Hindu Parishad international secretary, Praveen Togadia, appears to signal the no-nonsense attitude of the Congress-ruled States towards the communal politics of the Sangh Parivar.

Mr. Togodia is the second high profile leader of the Sangh Parivar to be arrested in recent times. Last month, another leader, Acharya Dharmendra was arrested in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, another Congress-ruled State, for ``trying to foment trouble''. The State Government stood its ground against the VHP's threat to launch an agitation unless the cases against Acharya Dharmendra were withdrawn. After spending a week in the lock-up, he was forced to seek a bail.

The decision to enforce the law against the trouble-makers, marks a shift in the Congress' attitude towards the issue. Earlier, the party appeared wary of taking firm action against the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. However, there appears to have been a change in its thinking now and the Congress Governments have been given the ``go-ahead'' to take stringent action against those trying to foment trouble.

The change in attitude is significant, coming as it does in the run-up to the Assembly elections later this year. Of the five States going to the polls, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are ruled by the Congress. The BJP and its affiliates, especially the VHP, have been trying to up the ante in order to polarise the polity on sectarian lines to consolidate the Hindu vote.

The Congress appears to have learnt its lessons from Gujarat. It seems to have concluded that it is better to tackle the issue firmly. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, has given instructions to her Chief Ministers to accord top priority to the maintenance of communal harmony and to strictly enforce the law against trouble-makers, irrespective of the community they belong to.

The party has taken a serious view of the VHP's attempt to vitiate the atmosphere and distribute tridents (trishuls) in Rajasthan.

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