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Denied Delhi eyes return to court on Ayodhya

New Delhi, March 31: Jolted by the Supreme Court’s outright rejection of its plea to allow religious activity on the undisputed Ayodhya site, the Centre is mulling three options to cool tempers within the Sangh parivar, which is threatening “direct action”.

The talk about options — which, sources said, could mean taking the Parliament route, issuing an Ordinance for handing over the undisputed land to the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust or filing a fresh application or review petition — follows the setback to the government’s “Ayodhya game plan”.

The Centre had thought of handing over the undisputed acquired land of 67.703 acres to a Hindu organisation, but the apex court dismissed its application. The court upheld its March 2002 order banning any religious activity or alteration of the land in any manner and maintenance of status quo.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is likely to take a decision on the next step after consulting his deputy L.K. Advani, attorney general Soli J. Sorabjee and law minister Arun Jaitley, sources said.

The most likely move, the sources added, was approaching the court again as the National Democratic Alliance does not have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha to push through a Bill and some allies are opposed to Parliament enacting a legislation to hand over the land. The allies may not also relish the idea of issuing an Ordinance.

Sources said the government’s move to decide on a fresh approach was shaped by the response the court verdict evoked in the Sangh parivar.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad international working president Ashok Singhal announced “direct action” for constructing the Ram temple. The verdict, he said, had “shut down any scope for compromise on the issue”.

“We should have got the undisputed land so that we could begin construction of the temple. Now it will be direct action and we will not rest till we get the whole plot, including the disputed land,” Singhal added.

Senior VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore said “the ultimate solution is legislation”.

“The NDA is not fulfilling the Hindu cause. We wish to change it. Secular forces were more powerful in the NDA and the judgment will help us fight them,” he added, declaring that in the next election, the VHP will campaign against all those MPs who do not support construction of the Ram temple.

But Kishore said the court’s rejection, in a way, was positive for the parivar, because it could have been “stuck” with the issue of the undisputed land. “Now we will demand both — the disputed and the undisputed land.”

A high-power committee of the outfit will meet in a day or two to decide its next course of action, sources said.

The RSS demanded a parliamentary legislation.

“The government should explore other options like mobilising support of the political parties and try to arrive at some kind of amicable solution. It should use its legislative powers after securing the support of all political parties,” spokesman Ram Madhav said.

An NDA source said if the court rejects a review petition, the government might exercise the option of issuing an Ordinance.

And if the BJP thinks it is a potential election plank, it could even prod the government to bring in a legislation, risking the fall of the Vajpayee government, the source added. That is in case some of the allies withdraw support before the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

The Supreme Court, while rejecting the Centre’s plea today, had cited the possibility of communal disaffection if it allowed religious activity on the undisputed site before the title suit is disposed of.

But parivar sources hinted that the reverse could happen, affecting “social harmony” — they did not want to use the word “communal” — if Muslims did not respect the sentiments of Hindus.

Though officially the BJP was guarded in its reaction, a senior leader admitted that the party did not expect “outright” rejection of the government’s petition.

While the BJP trod with caution, saying the Ayodhya issue should be resolved as early as possible, major political parties, including some BJP’s allies, and Muslim organisations welcomed the verdict.

The Congress used the verdict to attack the government. The party said it has put paid to the Centre’s plans to repeatedly move applications before courts and seek “non-existent clarifications” on the Ayodhya issue in an election year.

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