Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swings between the conflicting positions of the present and former party presidents, Rajnath Singh and L.K. Advani, on the issue of "Hindu terrorism", the party cannot be unaware that it is dealing with perhaps the most explosive issue in its 28-year life.
While Advani is trying desperately to preserve his above-the-fray moderate image by saying that the charges against the suspected Hindu miscreants should be settled in accordance with the law, Rajnath Singh's view is that a Hindu cannot be a terrorist at all. So, the legal questions do not arise.
The compulsions of both are clear. As a prime minister-in-waiting for the BJP, Advani cannot afford to be seen as anything other than reasonable. Rajnath Singh, on the other hand, seems to have replaced Advani not only as party chief but also as the resident hawk in the organisation.
In a way he is in a stronger position because the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other rabid outfits of the so-called saffron brotherhood of the Hindu right are behind him. He was, after all, the choice of the RSS for the BJP president's post after Advani had offended the saffronites by praising Mohammed Ali Jinnah's secularism.
For these hardliners, any admission of Hindu terrorism is fatal for their feverish attempts to portray Muslims - and Muslims alone - as unrepentant jehadis out to kill the kafirs or non-believers.
Besides, the charge of terrorism will tarnish Hinduism itself, making it appear as a mirror image of radical Islam. The high moral ground which the Hindu supremacists have been trying to occupy by projecting the innate toleration of Hinduism will be lost. The arrests of swamis and sadhvis - Hindu holy men and women - on charges of terrorism are one of the most shocking events in recent memory.
On the political front, the upsurge of hawkish sentiments has not only marginalized the small group of moderates in the BJP but also carries the possibility of making the party appear yet again as a militant, rightwing organisation as at the time of the Ramjanmabhoomi agitation, which led to the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992.
Riding on the crest of that movement, the BJP assumed power at the centre, first for 13 days in 1996 and then for six years in 1998. However, the negation of the hopes of the hardliners that the party will implement its pro-Hindu agenda after coming to power has evidently made them adopt their present combative posture.
The alleged involvement of saffron (the sacred colour associated with Hindus) of activists in terrorism is an evident fallout of the feeling of anger and frustration among them that the BJP's moderate line, which was preferred by Atal Bihari Vajpayee earlier and now by Advani, is a betrayal of the party's and the RSS-led Sangh Parivar's dream of establishing a theocratic Hindu 'rashtra' (state) in India.
However, one of the organisations which has come to the fore in connection with the activities of the suspected Hindu terrorists does not belong to the Parivar at all. It is Abhinav Bharat, which was founded in 1904 by Veer Savarkar to fight the British. Savarkar, who was an accused in the Mahatma Gandhi murder case, dissolved the outfit in 1952 because the British had left.
Its revival in 2006 has brought together the families of both Savarkar and Nathuram Godse, who was Mahatma Gandhi's assassin. Abhivav Bharat is now headed by Himani Savarkar, daughter of Godse's brother, Gopal Godse. Himani married Savarkar's nephew.
Although Abhinav Bharat has no links with the Parivar, the close association of the descendants of Savarkar and Godse gives it a special place in the Hindutva iconology. As is known, Savarkar coined the term Hindutva and outlined its anti-minority philosophy by saying that neither Muslims nor Christians could be true citizens of India since their holy lands were elsewhere.
And about Godse, former RSS chief Rajju Bhaiya had said that "his intention was good, but he used the wrong methods".
Since the BJP has no control over Abhinav Bharat, it will be a headache for Advani during the election campaign as more news of its militancy comes to light. However, it is also undeniable that the BJP does not have any control even over its fraternal organisations like the VHP or the storm troopers of the Bajrang Dal.
Their involvement in the anti-Christian outrages in Orissa, Karnataka and elsewhere has not only strained the relations between the BJP and its partner in the National Democratic Alliance, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) of Orissa, but has also embarrassed the moderates in the BJP.
When these organisations were first set up, their objective was to keep the anti-minority feelings high in order to help the BJP rake in the Hindu votes. But now that they have become more or less loose cannons, they are apparently harming the party rather than helping it.
What has happened evidently is that the Parivar has become a hydra-headed monster, over which not only the BJP but even the ostensible paterfamilias, the RSS, is unable to exercise any restraining influence. Now, the Abhinav Bharat has joined the list from outside the Parivar, somewhat like the Shiv Sena, whose rebellious offshoot, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, is currently tarnishing the saffron image by targeting north Indians in Mumbai and elsewhere in the state.
(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com)