| Advani felicitates Vajpayee in New Delhi on the completion of four years of the NDA government. George Fernandes looks on. (PTI)
New Delhi, Oct. 13: On a day when the BJP celebrated four years of power by placing Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the same pedestal as Nehru and Indira Gandhi, its militant sibling, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, accused the Prime Minister of colluding with Mulayam Singh Yadav in “terrorising and oppressing peace-loving Ram bhakts”.
At a luncheon meeting with the media, BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu dwelt on stability, “Atalji’s able leadership” and development, giving Hindutva and Ayodhya a go-by.
Over tea and biscuits, VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia asked: “Is Atal Bihari Vajpayee helping Mulayam (the Uttar Pradesh chief minister) or is it the other way round or have they joined hands to oppress and suppress our Ram bhakts'” The reference was to the arrest of VHP supporters on their way to Ayodhya.
The BJP seemed to take its cue from the Prime Minister, who attributed the success of his government to the “cooperation” he had received from the NDA partners. Speaking to BJP office-bearers and members of his cabinet, including those from the allies, who wished him on the occasion, Vajpayee said India was at a turning point and the BJP, with a sizeable number of MPs, provided an opportunity to all parties to join and offer an alternative. Mamata Banerjee was not among those who attended the meeting.
His statement was construed in political circles as a blandishment to prospective allies who were turning away from the Congress like the Nationalist Congress Party or were in two minds about forming a “secular”alternative like the Samajwadi Party or were disgruntled with Sonia Gandhi’s leadership like Kerala’s K. Karunakaran.
While Vajpayee was cautious, Naidu wrote the Congress’ political obituary, saying: “The sun of Congress dominance in national politics has set forever. The Congress party has entered the phase of irreversible decline.”
Naidu compared the Congress leadership’s “complete helplessness” with the “complete stability at the Centre and the Prime Minister’s popularity ratings”, which, he maintained, were as “high as ever”.
“The Prime Minister’s most striking achievement is the deft manner in which he has led the multi-party coalition. The success of the NDA experiment marks the further maturing of Indian democracy, ushering in a new political culture of parties with different ideologies working together in the interest of the nation.”
In contrast, Togadia’s attack on the Prime Minister highlighted the ideological divergence between two groups with the same origin in the Sangh parivar.
Referring to the arrests of “Ram bhakts” en route to Ayodhya in trains, he asked: “Is the Indian Railway under the Centre’s jurisdiction or Mulayam Singh Yadav’s' Has it been decentralised'”
The insinuation was that the Vajpayee government was hand-in-glove with the Uttar Pradesh administration.
He warned that if central forces patrolling Ayodhya fire on the “Ram bhakts” when they assemble at the “disputed” site on October 17, Vajpayee would owe an explanation to the country.
“Agar CRPF ki goli Ram bhakton ke chhati pe chali, to Atal Bihari Vajpayee ne hi unko chalaya. Unko ye desh ko batana padega (If the CRPF fires on the Ram bhakts, it will only be on Vajpayee’s instruction. He will owe an explanation to the country).”
Togadia appealed to BJP workers to “pressure their leaders to return to Hindutva” and reminded them the party won as many as 64 seats in Gujarat because of his campaign. However, he made it clear the that VHP will not campaign for the BJP in the coming Assembly elections.
It will make an exception for “Hindutva -minded candidates like Narendra Modi”, not touching those who wear a “secular mask”.
He singled out Vajpayee, holding him responsible for moves like despatching 12 CRPF companies from Jammu and Kashmir to Ayodhya, although the force is under L.K. Advani’s home ministry. “The Prime Minister is the government, he is the head of government and everybody, including cabinet ministers, are answerable to him. We hold him responsible.”
Togadia threatened that riots would break out if the “Ram bhakts” were prevented from reaching Ayodhya.