The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal fends off temple fire

New Delhi, March 4: Amid noisy interruptions from the Opposition, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee told the Rajya Sabha today that the law will take care of anybody who transgresses the limits of decency on the Ayodhya issue.

The Opposition was demanding a response from Vajpayee on the intemperate remarks made by VHP leader Praveen Togadia on the Ayodhya dispute.

Answering the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address, Vajpayee said: “The government was not motivated by political considerations when it moved the Supreme Court over a piece of land in Ayodhya.”

As the Opposition continued to snigger, he said: “There is no reason why the issue should trigger communalism. The law is there for any person who transgresses the limits of decency.”

In the Lok Sabha yesterday, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had halted Vajpayee in his tracks with her interventions. Today, the entire Opposition pulled him up repeatedly, especially when he talked about Ayodhya — the most emotive of all issues now.

“This is not the first time the President has talked about the Ayodhya issue,” Vajpayee said. “From the beginning of the controversy, we have maintained there are two ways of resolving the problem — either through a negotiated, amicable settlement or a legal verdict.”

According to Vajpayee, both parties to the dispute can present their viewpoints during the coming court hearing.

Vajpayee, as usual, was walking the tight rope on an issue that has become the core of the Sangh parivar’s immediate agenda. The recent congregation of sadhus at the VHP dharma sansad in Delhi, which demanded immediate construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, had severely criticised Vajpayee who, in their definition, is not a hardliner.

The Opposition today was equally relentless in its attack. Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah had to repeatedly tick them off to allow Vajpayee to continue. It was left to Rashtriya Janata Dal president Laloo Prasad Yadav to lighten the proceedings by getting MPs from the Opposition and the treasury benches to laugh.

When Vajpayee said “Look how the situation has changed. Now even a vegetable vendor can find out the cost of vegetables on her mobile”, Laloo quipped: “Like sadhus, smoking pot with one hand and holding a mobile with the other.”

Again when Vajpayee emphasised his government’s resolve to pass the women’s reservation Bill, Laloo retorted: “Pradhan mantri mahila virodhi hain, is liye shadi nahin kiye” (The Prime Minister is anti-women, that’s why he is unmarried).

Before talking on Ayodhya, Vajpayee spoke at length on the country’s economic situation. He clearly said the Centre was facing a tough task of living up to its commitment of securing an 8 per cent growth.

“We have been battling drought for two years. I have met chief ministers and bureaucrats and they have all said achieving an 8 per cent growth is difficult, but not impossible,” he said.

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