Former swayam sevak and Jan Sangh activist, and a BJP founder-member, veteran political leader Sankersinh Vaghela said that unleashing violence against Muslims or bulldozing property owned by them cannot be equated with Hindutva because Hinduism doesn’t stand for any kind of violence.
Once an associate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before they fell out, Vaghela joined RSS when he was a teenager. In 1971, he moved to the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and served as its Gujarat unit general secretary.
He got elected to the sixth Lok Sabha in 1977, when all Jan Sangh members merged with the ruling Janata Party, and was the unified party’s state vice-president. After the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980, Vaghela served as the party’s Gujarat unit general secretary and president.
He is said to have personally visited more than 15,000 villages in his own vehicle, or using public transport, sleeping at temples and village crossings when he used to tour the state, preaching about the RSS philosophy and later, the Jan Sangh.
Vaghela and Modi worked together when Modi was deputed to the state as the party’s general secretary (organisation) in 1985, but differences cropped up between them in the run-up to the 1995 elections, after which Modi chose Keshubhai Patel over Vaghela for the chief minister’s post.
Vaghela, however, did serve as the chief minister for a year in 1996-97, after quitting the BJP. His revolt in 1995, according to party sources, was not against Keshubhai Patel or his government, but against Modi’s style of functioning and interference in the government.
Eventually, he joined the Congress, became a Union minister in the first UPA government, served as Leader of the Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, and then quit the party in 2017.
Although Vaghela had his ideological roots in RSS shakhas and emerged from the ranks of the Jan Sangh, he’s ideologically closer to the more liberal Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who, he says, was so tall that the RSS was not able to impose its thinking on him.
Speaking to IANS, Vaghela said today it could be Hindu-versus-Muslim binary, tomorrow it could be Patel versus Kshatriya, or tribal versus Dalit. “These people are not uniting people, the society, or the nation,” he said. “They’re here to divide the society and the nation.”
In the past, Vaghela would light-heartedly ask, “Will the BJP throw 17 crore Muslims into the sea?” As he put it in his interview with IANS: “Attacking them is not the solution; the solution lies in winning their hearts and bringing them into the mainstream, reconverting them to Hinduism. If they can’t tolerate 17 crore Muslims, how can they dream of ‘Akhand Hindustan’.” He was quick to add of course that “Akhand Hindustan can never be possible”.
Vaghela recalled that when the BJP was formed under the leadership Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the party had decided to follow the principle of ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’.
“Vajpayeeji believed in Gandhian socio-economic policies and convinced the party to follow in the Mahatma’s footsteps,” he added.
He also pointed out that the Jan Sangh was not launched to promote Hindutva or Hinduism.
“In 1948, when the then government banned the RSS, its sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar theorised that a political party in power had taken the action, so to protect the RSS and its ideology, a political party needed to be created. That is how under the leadership of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee the Bharatiya Jan Sangh was founded in 1951,” Vaghela said.