Ahmedabad: This is now an undeclared war between Pravin Togadia, the international working president of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On his release from a private hospital in Ahmedabad, Togadia fired the first salvo, charging Modi with using J.K. Bhatt, the joint commissioner of the city police’s crime branch, to torment members of his family.

“I want details of phone calls between the police officer and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be made public,” he said, adding that the Ahmedabad crime branch had earned the epithet of “conspiracy branch.”

The VHP chief performed a vanishing act on 14 January after he received an anonymous call telling him that a team of policemen from Rajasthan and Gujarat was on its way to arrest him. He also expressed fear that the police would kill him in a fake encounter.

“Some people want to get me killed so that I stop talking about the Ram janmabhoomi temple, cow protection, jobs for unemployed youth and remunerative prices for farmers’ crops,” Togadia said after resurfacing in the hospital.

The VHP chief said he was not afraid of death, but was worried about the grave consequences throughout the country in case he is eliminated by the police in fake encounter. “That’s why I evaded the police team from Rajasthan that had come ostensibly with an arrest warrant from a Jaipur court related to a 10-year-old case,” Togadia said. He wondered how Rajasthan’s chief minister and home minister, who he had contacted over the phone, did not know about a police team from their state being in Ahmedabad with an arrest warrant for him.

Togadia, with tears running down his cheeks, said the Central Intelligence Bureau (IB) had been dogging him and his supporters—more than 10,000 medical practitioners who had pledged to treat patients for free, in response to his appeal.

The VHP chief, however, refused to divulge the names of the persons who, according to him, wanted him dead. “I will disclose their names with full proof at the appropriate time,” he said.

Going missing

Togadia said he had received an anonymous tip-off on the phone advising him to leave the VHP office immediately as a team of policemen from Rajasthan and Gujarat was on its way to kill him in a fake encounter. He said he left for his friend’s house after informing his personal security guard and thereafter for the airport to catch a flight to Jaipur with the objective of surrendering in court.

The VHP chief then switched off his mobile phone, leading to wild speculation in the media and among his supporters that he had been arrested by the Rajasthan police. The rumour mill prompted his supporters to protest in large numbers near the VHP office at Paldi in Ahmedabad, disrupting traffic and even manhandling a couple of Muslim pedestrians.

“On the way to the airport, I suddenly started perspiring profusely and fainted. When I regained my senses, I found myself in the hospital,” Togadia said.

However, an investigation by journalists revealed that Togadia was brought to the hospital not by a stranger who spotted him lying unconscious by the roadside at Kotarpur near the Ahmedabad airport, but by the close friend to whose house the VHP chief had gone that morning.

Countering Togadia’s version of events, the joint police commissioner, J.K. Bhatt, alleged that the VHP leader had stage-managed his “abduction.” Citing CCTV footage and call records, Bhatt, while briefing the media, said Togadia had used his driver’s phone to call a friend, who in turn had spoken to a doctor at the hospital and informed him in advance that the VHP chief would be taken there, hours before he actually arrived.

What made Togadia stage such a drama and express fear that “someone” wanted to eliminate him in a fake police encounter? Is the VHP chief hallucinating that the Gujarat and Rajasthan police would eliminate him in a fake encounter?

Not once did he express such a fear when he was breathing fire in his anti-Muslim speeches when the Congress was in power in both New Delhi and Gandhinagar.

The VHP leader, by insinuating that Modi, his one-time friend and co-worker in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was using the Ahmedabad crime branch to harass him and his family members, seems bent on embarrassing the Prime Minister.

Nachiketa Desai is a senior journalist based in Ahmedabad and tweets at @nachiketadesai. The views expressed are his own.

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