The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eye on Bihar, NDA stages unity show

New Delhi, Nov. 15: The BJP has managed to coax a united response from the National Democratic Alliance on everything from Bihar and inflation to Ayodhya and the Kanchi sankaracharya's arrest.

Meeting at chairperson Atal Bihari Vajpayee's residence this morning, the combine placed the need for solidarity above all else and seemed ready to paper over differences that apparently surfaced over Hindutva.

A resolution adopted by the NDA said: 'We hold that the NDA is as relevant, and its unity as important now as during the six-year period when our alliance provided the first stable and successful coalition government in the history of Independent India.'

It claimed the combine was the 'only and the true alternative to the contradiction-ridden Congress-communist combine, which is set to take the nation on a ruinous path' and arrogated to itself the task of 'exposing this (the United Progressive Alliance) regime'.

The next paragraph explained why 'unity' was the NDA's byword: 'An equal priority is to emancipate Bihar from the corrupt and anti-people RJD-Congress rule, which is now a glaring example of absence of order in society, total erosion of law in governance and violation of all norms.' In a veiled message to Ram Vilas Paswan, the resolution underlined the need for 'all anti-RJD forces to unite'.

That the need for cohesion was treated as synonymous with the Bihar elections indicates that the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) continue to remain the fulcrum of NDA politics. The other constituents played along with this compulsion.

BJP chief L.K. Advani's speaking at length on the Ram temple during his speech at last October's national council and bowing to RSS leaders had led a flustered Dal (U) to threaten to quit the NDA. Even so, Dal (U) chief George Fernandes, as always, played the handy mediator today and persuaded the likes of Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar to pursue the 'BJP line' on Ayodhya and the Kanchi seer's arrest.

NDA sources added that Advani maintained he had not said anything out of place on Ayodhya and the media had 'blown' his statements 'out of proportion'. The resolution iterated the coalition's stand that a judicial verdict ' which 'must be accepted by all' ' was the ideal solution. But if this took too long, a negotiated settlement between Hindu and Muslim representatives in an 'atmosphere of communal peace, mutual trust and goodwill' was the best way out.

The meeting also decided that Fernandes will leave for Tamil Nadu tomorrow to try and meet the sankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswati. The NDA has termed his arrest as 'unfortunate'.

Fernandes said after the meeting that 'it is regrettable that no thought was given to the guidelines given by courts and other authorities pertaining to religious leaders' while arresting the seer.

Yadav, who yesterday said nobody should interfere in the case, today reportedly went along with the NDA's view 'that while the law should take its course, he (the seer) should not have been arrested this way'. Sources close to Yadav said 'his words should not be quoted out of context'.

The BJP was initially reluctant to spell out its stand on the seer's arrest for fear of annoying Tamil Nadu chief minister and ADMK president Jayalalithaa. But Vajpayee, Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and other leaders later backed the sankaracharya fully. They reportedly got their cue from the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad which took to the streets, unmindful of how Jayalalithaa might react.

Fernandes, too, made it plain that the NDA chose the seer over the chief minister. He said he had no plans to meet Jayalalithaa, who was not part of the combine.

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