The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Attack Brajesh, target Atal

New Delhi, Oct. 22: Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal today mounted a fresh assault on the Prime Minister’s principal secretary and national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, demanding he should be “punished” for “keeping Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the dark” last March when the VHP wanted to perform a shila daan at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

Singhal also urged the Prime Minister to quickly resolve the Ram temple controversy.

Although Singhal’s news conference was convened primarily to voice the VHP’s objections to the Congress agitation against Praveen Togadia for his controversial remarks on Sonia Gandhi, he ended up training his guns on Mishra again.

The message was not lost on political circles, which felt Mishra was a surrogate and Singhal’s actual target was Vajpayee. The VHP chief reinforced this perception by keeping deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani above reproach.

Singhal reminded Vajpayee not to forget the “forces” that brought the BJP to power and urged him to “consider ways and means of how to bridge the gap between him and us”.

“I gave the Prime Minister six months to close this gap but because nothing has happened, I have spoken out today,” he said. His quick-fix solution was to “punish” the person who was “responsible for creating this distance”. By “punishment” he meant Mishra’s sacking. “The Cabinet secretary is good enough. There is no need for a principal secretary in the PMO,” he said.

“If there are no officers between us, there will be no gap. It is now for the Prime Minister to take a decision on him (Mishra).”

The VHP chief made it a point to give Advani a clean chit when it was pointed out that as home minister, he was directly responsible for law and order in Ayodhya in March because Uttar Pradesh was then under Central rule.

Referring to the security arrangements after the VHP intensified its agitation, Singhal said: “It was because of the attitude of the PMO during those 15 days that Atalji’s image was ruined. I didn’t like the way this happened.”

Asked who in the PMO was responsible, he said: “You know the person who’s presiding over the office.” But he did not name Mishra. A PMO spokesman refused to respond to Singhal’s remarks, saying that the office was trying to ascertain what exactly he said.

Singhal recounted how during that fortnight Ayodhya residents could not cremate their dead and move from one area to another without showing their identity cards. “These were the things that were hotly discussed. Over 20,000 security men were on the job and for what' All because one man from the PMO wanted them,” he said.

Singhal insisted that Vajpayee was “bekhabar” (unaware) of what was happening. “I know his nature. He had no idea what instructions were given and who gave them.”

The home minister, he said, was as “helpless” as the Prime Minister. “What did Advani have to do with all this' Nothing.”

Singhal hinted that there was still scope for Vajpayee to repair his relations with the parivar when he said, if invited, he would attend the meeting between BJP and RSS leaders scheduled for October 24.

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