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Work on temple back-up plan
- BJP polishes off-court game

New Delhi, Feb. 20: Murli Manohar Joshi today assured VHP leaders that a “suitable” formula would be worked out if the Supreme Court delays vacating its stay on religious activity on the Ayodhya site or takes an “adverse” view of the Centre’s plea to lift the ban.

The assurance, on the eve of a meeting of the VHP’s apex steering committee — the Marg Darshak Mandal — came when the human resources development minister met the organisation’s leaders, including working president Ashok Singhal.

Sources close to Joshi said the “formula” would be to make out a case that it was “tenable” — legally and otherwise”— to restore the “undisputed” land purportedly in the possession of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas.

For the first time, the government has also got down to the task of demarcating the undisputed land.

The Centre’s case rests on an observation made by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in its 1994 judgment, which upheld the acquisition of the Ayodhya land by the government after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The court had said the “undisputed owners” must be handed back the “area found to be superfluous” after making provisions for the land needed to construct either a temple or a mosque.

In this case it is the Nyas, which was given a part of the “undisputed” (or “superfluous”) land by the Uttar Pradesh government, then headed by the BJP, in 1992.

If this legal route is choked, government sources said they would have to resort to what Rajiv Gandhi did when he overturned the apex court’s verdict in the Shah Bano case. This means bringing an executive order allowing the Centre to give the “undisputed” land to the Nyas. “But this would be the last option,” the sources stressed.

The BJP hopes the tone and tenor of the VHP’s three-day dharma sansad, which begins on Saturday, would be less rancorous than last year when the Prime Minister came under attack at a public meeting by the sants.

Asked what could have changed in a year, a source said: “The government’s application before the court and, more important, for the first time the government went on record to state in Parliament that the court must expedite the settlement and give an early record.

“Earlier, the government’s stock response was it should be resolved through negotiations or the court but it never committed itself to a time frame.”

The other reason was the decision to steer clear of the “usual” VHP-Muslim dialogue, which yielded nothing. Indeed, the VHP gave a veiled warning to Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati not to fall into the “dialogue trap” and undermine his credibility.

Joshi’s involvement as the Centre’s chief mediator was also “welcomed”. “Unlike the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister, he has been faithful to the Hindutva agenda without being apologetic,” a VHP functionary explained.

The BJP’s aggressive posture on cow slaughter has also given the VHP “hope” that it is returning to its Hindutva agenda. The BJP has urged the Centre to bring in a legislation banning cow slaughter.

Sources indicated that while it may not be possible to introduce the Bill in the budget session, it could be brought in the monsoon session.

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