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Ayodhya test for BJP
Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi, Nov. 25: Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj face a big test when Parliament debates the Liberhan Commission’s report on December 1.

Jaitley, leader of the Rajya Sabha Opposition and Sushma, the BJP’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, will open the debates in their respective Houses. L.K. Advani, leader of the Opposition in the Lower House, has not yet decided if he should speak at length or just intervene. He is among the 68 leaders the commission has indicted.

Jaitley and Sushma are expected to set out the BJP’s “considered opinion” on the report. BJP strategists hinted it would be “interesting” to see how Jaitley, Sushma and other seniors dealt with the RSS and, to a lesser extent, the VHP in their speeches.

Liberhan has accused the Sangh and the VHP of manipulating the crowd.

“Don’t ask me what line I will take. I was only informed this morning by Advaniji that I have to open the debate and I have started going through the report,” Sushma said.

Since the RSS will closely monitor the discussions, a senior MP said, several party members are badgering the floor leaders to put their names in so they can “pledge loyalty” to the Sangh. Most of the nine Uttar Pradesh MPs have already staked claim to their “right” to speak because Ayodhya is in their state.

The BJP agrees that Atal Bihari Vajpayee must be defended without ifs and buts because his case is “foolproof”. Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the law required that a person was heard out before being condemned (by an inquiry panel). When a lawyer had asked Liberhan to summon Vajpayee in 2004, the request was rejected.

The BJP is thinking of moving court to have Vajpayee’s name expunged. The party is also expected to stress the clean chit to P.V. Narasimha Rao. It will point to the presence of kar sevaks like Shanker Singh Vaghela (indicted) and former Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Nirupam in the Congress, and the party’s alliance in Jharkhand with Babulal Marandi, who led a team of kar sevaks from Bihar.

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