Togadia begins indefinite fast for key 'Hindutva' demands

Pravin Togadia (File) Pravin Togadia at a Hanuman Janmotsav function in Moradabad | PTI

Former VHP leader Pravin Togadia began his indefinite fast in Ahmedabad on Tuesday to publicise his demands, including construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

The 62-year-old Hindutva leader quit the post of VHP international working president last week after his nominee, Raghav Reddy, lost a key organisational poll. Togadia launched the fast outside the state VHP headquarters in the Paldi area after 12pm on Tuesday with some Hindu priests and supporters.

Togadia had earlier said his hunger strike would be aimed at the welfare of Hindus and to draw attention to his demands.

These included construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya, a nationwide ban on cow slaughter, enforcement of the common civil code and resettlement of displaced Kashmiri Pandits.

The surgeon-turned-firebrand leader had launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he quit the VHP, a rightwing outfit with which he had been associated with for decades.

Earlier, Togadia was to sit on fast at GMDC Ground, but the police denied permission, after which the venue was shifted on Tuesday to outside the VHP headquarters.

"We were denied permission by the police to go ahead with a fast at GMDC Ground, so we had to change the venue (located around 5km away)," said former VHP city president Raju Patel.

Togadia quit the rightwing organisation after former Himachal Pradesh governor V.S. Kokje was elected VHP international president, defeating Reddy, last Saturday.

Modi and Togadia, both of whom hail from Gujarat and started out as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteers, drifted apart in the last decade with Modi's rise.

Togadia had made a sensational claim last month, saying a Rajasthan Police team had come to Ahmedabad to "abduct" him and he feared he could be eliminated in a "fake encounter."

During the long-drawn tussle within the state BJP between Modi (before he became PM) and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, Togadia was believed to have backed the latter. The former VHP leader belongs to the Patel community.

Togadia recently met Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel, who had campaigned against the BJP in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections.