The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP taps RSS to play temple peacemaker

New Delhi, Feb. 13: With the Supreme Court turning down the Centre’s plea for early hearing on the Ayodhya stay order case, a beleaguered BJP has turned to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for help.

The RSS will soon speak to Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders with the limited brief that its functionaries should not say anything “intemperate” on the Ram temple as long as the case is being heard in court.

The court will take up the Centre’s application on February 21, a day before the VHP’s dharam sansad begins its convention.

“The Centre has started exploring a legal option and although it has its limitations, it must be given a chance. The Centre’s scope is restricted to getting the undisputed land (in Ayodhya) back and on that it has proved its sincerity by quickly moving the Supreme Court,” said a senior RSS functionary.

Just eight months ago, the RSS had said it would not arrogate to itself the “sole responsibility” of dealing with the VHP, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and other parivar members on the BJP’s behalf. The BJP, it clarified, would have to learn to “build its own bridges”.

RSS sources made it clear that there will be no effort to cajole the VHP and the Hindu clergy to “scale down” their demands at the dharam sansad, which begins on February 22. “Every organisation and forum is free to do its work. So will the dharam sansad. We will wait for the outcome before we decide on our next strategy,” they said.

It was indicated that the RSS would “advise” the VHP not to say anything that could have an adverse impact on the hearings in the Supreme Court and the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court. The feeling was that in March 2002, when the VHP wanted to perform “shiladaan”, the apex court might have rejected Mohammad Aslam’s plea that no activity should be allowed even on the “undisputed” land had hardliners like Praveen Togadia not challenged its authority at news conferences.

The BJP was told that its leaders must not take on Togadia and the others to score brownie points. That the party was ready to play ball was indicated in general secretary Pramod Mahajan’s statement after a meeting this morning at Keshav Kunj, the RSS headquarters. “We totally agree with the VHP on building a grand temple for Ram Lalla at Ayodhya. We only differ on the mechanism and the time frame and these can be sorted out,” he said. The “neutrality” adopted by the RSS, sources said, was because of its second-in-command, Mohan Rao Bhagwat, who, for the first time, was engaged in the mediations along with the Sangh’s best-known public face, Madan Das Devi.

Bhagwat was present at today’s 80-minute meeting with BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu and his five general secretaries. Known for his orthodox views on state-craft and Hindutva, Bhagwat was initially tipped to be the pointman between the RSS and the BJP after the Sangh was restructured in March 2000. He was elevated to the number two position, but was pipped to the coordinator’s post by Devi after the BJP leaders felt a “more flexible” person was needed.

SC sticks to date

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court said today the Centre’s petition should come up in the “normal course”, declining the Centre’s request for hearing it “at the earliest”.

The rebuff came on a day Mohammad Aslam, alias Bhure, on whose petition the apex court had in March 2002 banned any religious activity even on the undisputed land, moved an application opposing the government’s plea to vacate that order.

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