The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hint of VHP consolation role

New Delhi, June 23: In what appears to be a concession to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP has suggested that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad should be engaged in the Ayodhya negotiations, though at a later stage.

“The organisation which has been associated with the Ram temple andolan for a very long time should be included in the talks,” BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said today.

“If certain steps have been taken for resolving the matter, then there is no problem in involving all the interested parties in the negotiations.”

RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan, who met BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu yesterday, had reportedly emphasised that it was impossible to arrive at a solution by keeping the VHP out, however “honourable” the government’s intentions were.

BJP sources, however, said if the VHP is included it should be at a later stage after Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati — the Centre’s chief mediator — had arrived at some settlement with representatives of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

“Bringing the VHP on board right away may jeopardise the exercise. They will insist on their preconditions, which Muslims would find unacceptable and the whole process will be doomed,” said a source, recalling how the talks had failed to make any headway the last time in February 2002.

On its part, the VHP continued to insist that it would only accept an “honourable settlement” and not one which could “hurt the sentiments of Hindus”. Asked what “honourable” meant, VHP vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore said his outfit would not relinquish its claim over the Kashi and Mathura mosques nor endorse a reported proposal to throw open for namaz mosques under the Archaeological Survey of India.

Kishore also rejected a suggestion to build a mosque close to the Ram temple, a proposal apparently part of the compromise package offered by the Kanchi seer to the Muslim board.

The BJP is non-committal on the Kashi and Mathura demands. “There is no discussion in the party on Kashi and Mathura,” Naqvi said.

Within the BJP, there are two views on the VHP’s role: some feel the government should keep the outfit out of the talks and “ignore” their “bluster”. Others, aware of the VHP’s “damage” potential, believe it is “dangerous” to antagonise the Sangh’s militant progeny in the run-up to the elections.

“If it was just the VHP, we could have handled them. But they have RSS backing and that is what complicates the scene. Because, if swayamsevaks decide to be uncooperative or remain aloof in the elections, it’s bad news for the BJP,” said a source.

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