The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ayodhya sends Atal back to Kanchi seer

New Delhi, Feb. 3: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has again sought the help of Kanchi seer Swami Jayendra Saraswati to bail his government out of the looming Ayodhya crisis.

Saraswati, the sankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakotti Peetham, landed here today and is scheduled to meet Vajpayee tomorrow evening. Official sources said the meeting, after almost a year, would be a one-to-one.

The official word from Kamakshi temple — where the swami is putting up — is that he is on his way to Bhiwani in Haryana to preside over a kumbha abhishekam on February 5. But asked if a discussion on Ayodhya was on the cards, sources close to him said: “When two important leaders meet, they can discuss anything.”

Shortly after his arrival, the sankaracharya said he would “consider” facilitating a dialogue again if asked by the Prime Minister.

The temple issue has returned to the political centre stage with the VHP slated to hold its dharam sansad here on February 22 and 23. The sansad will be preceded by a meeting of the apex steering committee of its trust, the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas.

The VHP has been demanding that the Centre immediately hand over a portion of the “undisputed” land in the temple-mosque complex to the trust as it was a “bona fide” owner before the government acquired it through an Ordinance after the Babri Masjid demolition.

Even today, BJP MP from Gorakhpur and a member of the VHP’s steering committee, Mahant Adityanath, asserted in a press briefing that barring religious leaders nobody had the “right to adjudicate an issue which is a matter of faith”.

The sankaracharya was received by Vajpayee’s special emissary Vijay Goel.

“All issues will be discussed in totality,” he said but refused to elaborate if the Centre had thought up a formula to resolve the crisis.

Sources close to the seer said defence minister George Fernandes and law minister Arun Jaitley had also sought a meeting with him.

Fernandes was involved in bringing representatives of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Babri Masjid Action Committee to the round table last March when things came to a boil after the VHP laid siege on Ayodhya.

The leaders said they agreed to talk to the VHP and the government only because of the sankaracharya’s credentials.

But the talks failed with the VHP insisting that the land be handed over and the Muslims maintaining that status quo ante prevail pending a court verdict on the title suits and the question of whether a temple existed before Babar built the mosque.

This time also, Fernandes was asked by Vajpayee to sound out the allies on whether they were amenable to giving away land to the VHP trust.

Patna-based Muslim law board member Maulana Nizamuddin, who was part of the earlier talks, said he did not know of the sankarcharya’s visit and whether a dialogue would be restarted.

Sources said Jaitley was examining whether a legal option was possible to break the impasse.

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