The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani works on restive allies

New Delhi, Feb. 16: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy, L.K. Advani, today allayed allies’ fears on the Ayodhya issue to rally NDA forces at the first sign of an Opposition solidarity emerging at Sonia Gandhi’s dinner meeting.

The Opposition plans to bring an adjournment motion on the Ram temple in the budget session which begins tomorrow. Explaining the government’s position, Advani was quoted as assuring NDA allies that the matter would be resolved expeditiously by court or through talks.

Advani said there was no deviation from the NDA agenda on the Ram temple as the Opposition charged. He then lobbed the ball in the allies’ court by reminding them of how an all-party meeting, held in 2002 when Ayodhya was on the boil, took the unanimous view that the “issue should be resolved at the earliest and steps should be taken in that direction”.

That the allies were reassured was evident from the statement of Telugu Desam chief N. Chandrababu Naidu. Speaking to reporters after two sets of meetings this morning with Vajpayee, Naidu said: “All these things were discussed. At the same time, we are depending on the Supreme Court judgment.”

Stating that political parties and religious leaders had failed to evolve a consensus, Naidu said the Supreme Court would be the sole arbiter. “Whatever the judgment, all political parties have to abide by it.”

The Desam chief parried an uncomfortable question on the Centre’s decision to move an application before the apex court for an early hearing on the March 2002 stay order in the case. But sources close to him said he had expressed unhappiness at not being informed of the move in a meeting with Vajpayee, Advani, defence minister George Fernandes, finance minister Jaswant Singh and BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu.

In the NDA meeting held this evening at Vajpayee’s residence, C. Krishnan of the MDMK sought clarifications on the application, particularly whether, as the Opposition alleged, it implied the government was facilitating temple construction.

NDA convener Fernandes and BJP parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra told reporters the deputy Prime Minister asked the allies not to lend credence to the “controversy” the Opposition sought to whip up.

Advani was quoted as saying: “All of us should work hard to ensure that this controversy is not dragged further. It would not be in the interest of the country or any community.”

The allies were told that the 1994 Supreme Court judgment allowed the government to hand over the “superfluous” land to the original owners — a point the VHP harped on to reclaim its “share”. They were also told that Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati was on the job.

BJP sources said the government’s views on Ayodhya would be amplified in the President’s address to Parliament tomorrow.

Mamata Banerjee put in an appearance after a long boycott, but the Janata Dal (United) was missing.

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