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Gujarat in bag, cry for temple
- VHP lines up end-February drive

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Emboldened by its success in Gujarat, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad today said construction of the Ram temple could begin any day and the dharam sansad (religious parliament) would meet in Delhi on February 22 and 23 to finalise its strategy.

“Any further delay in temple construction is unacceptable. We will not tolerate this insult to Hinduism. We will complete the construction within one-and-a-half years and work on it could begin any day, which we will not divulge,” said the president of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, Ramchandra Das Paramhans.

The one-and-a-half year “deadline” ends in 2004, the year Lok Sabha elections are due.

The press meet made it clear the Nyas will not wait for permission from the government or the court to start construction. The Nyas would also not seek a meeting with the Prime Minister but, if Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted, they could see him.

The VHP would launch a countrywide agitation, holding religious sabhas (congregations) and asking Hindus to continuously chant the name of Ram. It also plans to ask MPs and leaders of all parties to pressure the Centre to hand back the land acquired by the Nyas.

Former Gorakhpur MP and mahant of the Gorakhnath temple Avaidyanath, who heads the VHP panel to speed up temple construction, added that “toughest steps” could be taken for “fulfilling this objective”.

After a long time, the entire phalanx of leaders associated with the temple agitation, showed up. Among those present at the meet were VHP president Vishnu Hari Dalmia, working president Ashok Singhal and former Varanasi MP Shirish Chand Dixit, who joined the VHP after retiring as director-general of Uttar Pradesh police.

Paramhans attacked the Prime Minister for reneging on his support “for a cause which he used to expound before coming to power” and pointed out that the BJP rode to power at the Centre and in Gujarat on the “Ram wave”.

Aware that the temple card might not click again in a vacuum, the VHP leaders linked it to terrorism and asserted: “The key to wiping out terrorism is in constructing the temple.”

VHP sources said they were “reasonably” sure the Centre and the BJP would “tacitly” back the next round of the agitation.

After the Gujarat poll, Vajpayee gave enough indication that he would play along with political Hindutva, they pointed out.

The sources also expected little opposition from NDA allies, who took the Gujarat mandate in their stride without pointing fingers at the campaign run by Narendra Modi and the VHP.

The BJP would back the VHP if terrorism was included in the temple campaign, the sources added. Terrorism as a political plank was tested in Gujarat and “there was no reason” why the temple-terrorism combination would not work in poll-bound Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, they said.

BJP sources concurred. “It’s futile whipping up rhetoric over a war with Pakistan. We know and people know it’s impossible to go for one with US pressure and the realisation that Pakistan is a nuclear power. The temple-terrorism combination is our best bet because recent history proves that Ayodhya has a way of transcending the boundaries of Uttar Pradesh. Every time the issue is raised, violence has broken out in states far removed from the epicentre like Maharashtra in 1993 and Gujarat recently. Both times we have benefited politically,” they said.

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