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Sangh waits for court signal

New Delhi, Feb. 24: The RSS is expected to take a decision on whether it will join the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-sponsored agitation for a Ram temple at its Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha to be held in Nagpur from March 7 to 9.

“The delegates’ convention will decide what our role should be, whether we should become part of the VHP’s mass movement or not,” said RSS spokesman Ram Madhav.

The decision, Sangh sources said, would depend to a large extent on the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing — on March 6 — on the Centre’s application for vacating the Ayodhya stay order. “If it is positive and the court looks like it would give an early ruling on restoring the undisputed land to the original owners, the RSS will keep away from the agitation. If it is negative, we will throw our weight behind it,” Madhav said.

The RSS’ “weight”, sources claimed, would be crucial in giving the VHP’s movement the kind of momentum it had in the 90s when it was at its peak. “Right now the only foot soldiers are those from the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. The sadhus are a motley and unorganised lot and, while they give the movement a religious colour and the rhetoric, the mass mobilisation is done by the VHP,” they explained.

Madhav said the RSS would focus on “educating people on the legitimacy of the VHP’s demand for the undisputed land and that it should be handed over immediately”.

The latter part of the temple movement may be tricky for the RSS and the BJP, sources said. If the court rules that the land could be given back to the VHP-backed Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, the Centre’s role would become crucial, they said. “Once the court gives the clearance, the onus is on the Centre to hand over this land,” they said.

BJP sources admitted that this was “easier said than done”. An exercise was already afoot to try and convince the NDA’s “secular” allies that starting construction on the “undisputed” part was the only way of “resolving” the issue, they said.

One of the options being looked at was amending the Places of Worship Act to facilitate the transfer of the land. The Act legislated that status quo ante be maintained at all religious places — as it existed before 1947 — but made an exception in the case of Ayodhya. It was this “opening” that the Centre was examining as a way out of the impasse, which could arise if parties like the Telugu Desam Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Trinamul Congress and the DMK, as well as the Opposition, stonewalled the return of the land to the Nyas.

Another proposal being considered seriously was the constitution of a new religious trust that would have the consent and support of all political parties. The non-BJP political establishment has rejected the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas — which has taken on itself the sole prerogative to construct the temple — as being an “out and out VHP front”.

The Kanchi shankaracharya came up with this idea and, according to BJP sources, has already sounded out the Congress. This despite the VHP distancing itself from the seer just before the dharma sansad and advising him not to mediate in the Ayodhya issue on behalf of the Centre and “undermine” his “credibility” in the process.

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