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Congress stays off BJP Ayodhya debate bait

New Delhi, Feb. 17: Guess who’s raring for a debate on Ayodhya' No, it’s not the Congress but the BJP.

The apparent reversal in roles has come about because the main Opposition party is wary of antagonising its Hindu vote-bank by talking against the temple before February 26, when Himachal Pradesh and three other states go to polls.

At the moment, therefore, the Congress wants Parliament to discuss the drought conditions, Iraq, divestment and so on. Ayodhya, yes, but preferably later.

But with the CPM and other Left parties insisting on an adjournment motion to “expose” the BJP allies, the Congress also does not want to wreck the newfound bonhomie of a united Opposition.

“We will take a decision tomorrow morning whether or not to support the Left-sponsored adjournment motion,” said Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, the party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha.

Indications are two notices may be given if the CPM is adamant on Ayodhya and Mulayam Singh Yadav on Mayavati’s “atrocities” against Samajwadi Party workers in Uttar Pradesh and “misuse” of the anti-terror Act. It would be up to the Speaker to decide whether Ayodhya or Uttar Pradesh should be taken up first.

Parliament was adjourned today after the customary presidential address. Tomorrow, the Business Advisory Committee will set the agenda for the week.

But the BJP has made its intentions clear — that it would use the Ayodhya issue to the hilt to expose the Congress’ “anti-Hindu” stand.

“We are surprised that the government’s petition to the apex court is opposed, its efforts to seek clarification (on) whether the undisputed land can be handed over is opposed. Cannot Ram mandir be made with the court’s permission' Cannot it be built on the undisputed land' Only those who want to keep the communal fire aflame in India will object to it,” the party’s chief whip, V.K. Malhotra, said.

“We welcome the debate. It is better if we had it early.” “Hindu bashing”, he added, has gone to the extreme.

But a cautious Congress did not support the CPM when it wanted to give a notice today for an adjournment motion to discuss the temple issue as it would be politically unwise when elections are round the corner.

Asked if his party would be bringing an adjournment motion on Ayodhya, spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy said the Congress was giving the highest priority to the issue as a situation has been created by the “collusion between (the) government and the VHP”. But there were other issues of “urgency” as well, like the situation in Uttar Pradesh, drought, the Iraq crisis and divestment of HPCL and BPCL.

Reddy also attacked the government for moving the Supreme Court to vacate its stay order on any religious activity even on the undisputed land in Ayodhya.

“We are also for expeditious settlement of the Ayodhya case but want to remind the NDA government that the title suit is pending before the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court and there is no need to take it to the Supreme Court,” he said.

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