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Sangh plays temple tune to BJP ears

New Delhi, Feb. 13: The RSS would like the BJP to give the Ram temple and abrogation of Article 370 pride of place in its Vision Document 2004, Sangh spokesperson Ram Madhav said.

“Ideally, the document should reflect all the issues which have been the main issues on the BJP’s agenda for the last 20 or 25 years. When the BJP came into being or when it existed under the Jan Sangh banner, the basic identity and ideology is something we are involved with,” Madhav told the media today.

The vision document — to prepare which, a special committee headed by Union minister Arun Jaitley has been set up — is expected to serve as the BJP’s manifesto in the Lok Sabha polls while the NDA would be bound by a common agenda of governance. The NDA manifesto is expected to exclude the contentious issues associated with the Hindutva political stream as it did in 1999.

While the BJP did not release its manifesto in the last election, the leaders have this time decided to go in for the vision document, billed as a roadmap for the next five years, following pressure from the RSS and its own cadre.

While Madhav stressed the RSS’ support for a negotiated settlement of the Ayodhya tangle, he iterated the Sangh’s commitment to the other two “disputed” places of worship — Gyan Vapi mosque in Varanasi and Shahi Idgah in Mathura. It would like to see a temple instead of these mosques as well, he said.

Asked if the RSS wanted the Places of Worship Act, 1994 — which legislated that barring Ayodhya, status quo ante as it existed before 1947 must prevail in all places of worship — to be repealed, Madhav said: “We will cross the bridge when we come to it.” This act effectively rules out any tampering with the Varanasi and Mathura mosques and excludes them from the purview of a legal dispute, unlike the Babri mosque which was tied up in several legal knots after the Nirmohi Akhada contested the ownership of the land by the Sunni Waqf Board in a court of law.

“Our position is Hindus want the three temples. In Ayodhya, the situation is clear, negotiations are on and there is an effort that could lead to a settlement if both the communities come to an understanding. The act will not be a hindrance in solving the other two disputes if Hindus and Muslims agree to resolve them,” he said.

BJP sources said while the Ram temple will be incorporated in the vision document, it was unlikely to mention Article 370 “because the sentiment of the country is for normalising the situation in Kashmir” and because of the “fear that this issue may become a thorn in the flesh of Kashmiris”.

On Article 370, the RSS spokesperson demanded its repeal because it “went against the spirit of the Constitution itself”. Madhav cited the latest expansion of the Jammu and Kashmir ministry as an illustration of “how Article 370 is in flagrant violation of the spirit of the Constitution”. He referred to the recent constitutional amendment legislated by Parliament which limited the size of a ministry — in the Centre and states — to 15 per cent of the size of the House in bigger states and 12 ministers in smaller states.

As per the new law, the Jammu and Kashmir ministry could have a maximum of 14 or 15 ministers but Madhav pointed out that within two months of the passage of the law, the PDP-Congress coalition expanded the size to 39, “showing utter disrespect to it”.

BJP sources explained that although the size of the Jammu and Kashmir legislature was 87, 24 “vacant” seats earmarked in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir quota were added to “justify” the enlargement.

While the BJP refrained from publicly commenting on the issue, sources said the Congress should have prevailed on chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed not to go in for the expansion or at least not allowed more of its members to become ministers because it was party to the Parliament amendment.

Sources said the National Conference, a former NDA constituent, asked the government to “pressure” the Mufti dispensation but admitted the Centre could do nothing.

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