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BJP behind govt on Ayodhya
- Party wants PM to ignore Sangh-VHP tirade

New Delhi, June 19: The BJP is determined to back the government-sponsored Kanchi Sankaracharya’s efforts to find a solution to the Ayodhya dispute despite strident objections from the RSS-VHP combine to his proposals.

“The BJP is clear that the government’s Ayodhya initiative must succeed at all costs. The government, we believe, should ignore the RSS and the VHP and go ahead with the formula for securing the land in Ayodhya from Muslims in return for closing the chapter on Kashi and Mathura. It’s a reasonable formula and the only practical one,” said a senior leader, seen as a hardliner.

The mosques at Kashi and Mathura — which the VHP claims were built on the debris of temples, as in Ayodhya — were functioning places of worship and “there was no way they could be tampered with”, sources said.

Second, the Places of Worship Act legislated by the Narasimha Rao government after the Babri demolition stipulates that status quo ante — as it was before 1947 — must be maintained at all religious places barring Ayodhya.

The third reason why the BJP thought the VHP must give up Kashi and Mathura was that, unlike Ayodhya, they were not “symbols of unity”. “Ram has an emotive appeal for every Hindu. Kashi is a Shivite pilgrim centre and has little or no meaning for Vaishnavites while the opposite is true for Mathura,” a BJP source said.

BJP sources said if the government’s Ayodhya initiative succeeded, the party would gain electorally because those Hindus who were squeamish about the VHP’s rhetoric but felt strongly about their faith would vote “blindly” for the party.

If it failed, the BJP would still gain, they claimed. “It will add strength to our case that Muslims do not want a solution. This line would go down well with Hindus,” argued sources.

The VHP, however, dismissed the Kanchi seer’s efforts and warned it would boycott leaders opposed to the Ram temple construction in the general election.

“It is a warning to leaders that they either favour construction of the Ram temple or the VHP would ensure they do not win Parliament elections in future,” outfit leader Ashok Singhal said.

Asked about his relations with “soulmate” Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who like the VHP leader was working on the directions of the Sangh, he said: “The day Vajpayee opposed construction of the Ram temple, he ceased to be my friend.”

BJP sources were confident the RSS and the VHP would eventually endorse the Sankaracharya’s formula and attributed their present obduracy to “the need to do hard bargaining”.

But like the RSS-VHP, the BJP rejected the other element in Jayendra Saraswati’s package — handing over mosques in the ASI’s jurisdiction to Muslims. It argued that this would open a Pandora’s Box because Hindus will demand that out-of-bounds temples be similarly handed over to them.

Defence minister George Fernandes and finance minister Jaswant Singh will call on the seer at Kanchi on Sunday, ostensibly to “seek his blessings”, sources close to Fernandes said.

But BJP sources said the purpose of the visits by the ministers, both close to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, was to assess the seer’s mind after the RSS-VHP claim that the Centre had kept him in the dark on crucial aspects of the Ayodhya issue.

However, the seer did not seem perturbed about the RSS-VHP’s assertions that no bargaining would be allowed on Ayodhya and that Kashi and Mathura were non-negotiable. Agencies quoted him today as saying a solution would be found “hopefully early” though he was non-committal if this would happen before the Lok Sabha poll.

BJP sources said one reason for the Sankaracharya’s apparent confidence was the “hundred per cent backing” from the Centre to his Ayodhya package. The Centre’s resolve was steeled by the “unqualified support” from the BJP, the sources added.

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