New Delhi, Oct. 11: A couple of weeks after he reportedly attacked Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a Lucknow meeting, saying how his every decision had “damaged” his own “credibility” as well as that of the BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) working president Ashok Singhal climbed down a bit and maintained he was “misquoted” by the media.
At a media briefing, Singhal said he had sent a missive to BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu today to “clarify” that he had not said “every decision” of the Prime Minister has had a negative impact on his credibility. “I only said it in the context of the Ramjanmabhoomi issue,” he added.
But on the Ayodhya issue, Singhal was as harsh as ever. In the letter to Naidu, he stressed that Vajpayee had some hope of retrieving his “credibility” only if he became more positive on constructing the Ram temple.
While refusing to reveal the VHP’s plans on the issue, Singhal hinted that something major would unfold in the days to come. He said in the recent Margdarshak Mandal meeting the VHP held in Lucknow, the clergy had submitted a “plan of action which is such that the government will be compelled to take a stand and say yes or no to it”.
The VHP leader said he had appended Lucknow datelined press clippings of the VHP meeting in the letter to Naidu to “prove” his point. Singhal’s alleged attack on Vajpayee prompted Naidu to immediately issue a statement in the Prime Minister’s defence, saying the VHP was “influenced” by “religious extremism” from across the border.
Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani reportedly asked the RSS leaders to intervene and prevail on Singhal not to indulge in personal attacks on BJP leaders. Sangh sources, however, insisted that Singhal’s letter to Naidu was not written at their behest. “Ashokji is far too senior a leader to need anyone’s advice or intervention. He probably thought a clarification was necessary,” they said.
Sources close to Singhal said he was forced to send it after a leading newsmagazine carried a photo of his with an accompanying blurb that quoted his controversial remark on Vajpayee.
The VHP working president persisted in his tirade against the government. Singhal said the BJP’s rout in the Delhi Assembly elections four years ago and more recently in Jammu proved how “upset” Hindus were for reneging on the commitment to allow a Ram temple to be built in Ayodhya.
Asked to respond to a statement made by VHP president Vishnu Hari Dalmiya in a TV interview, saying the BJP-VHP ties were on the “verge of a breakdown”, Singhal said: “There is no breaking point. Our message to them (the BJP) is clear: reform yourself and then may be things will change. If you don’t, the Hindu samaj will not support you, like in Jammu and Delhi.”
We must remember we have given a solemn pledge to the Hindu samaj (to construct the temple).”
As to what would happen if the government continued to be “indifferent”, he said, “Hindus respond in a silent way. I have told senior politicians that however offended they feel, Hindus will not take to the streets or issue statements in newspapers.”
According to Singhal, all that the government needs to do is take a Cabinet decision to restore the Ayodhya land to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas (trust). “But despite agreeing on everything, they (the government) waited for the one-year deadline given by the Hindu religious leaders to end before requesting the court to expedite the hearing on the issue on a day-to-day basis,” he said to support his contention of how “tardy” the Centre was on the matter.
Apart from the temple issue, Singhal accused the government of doing nothing to ban cow slaughter or stop work on the Tehri dam. “Mayavati (Uttar Pradesh chief minister) has issued an order calling for a blanket ban on the slaughter of cows and buffaloes. Why can’t the Centre follow suit'” he asked.