The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh & health test for Atal
- PM scheduled to meet RSS leaders

New Delhi, Oct. 23: Health permitting, the Prime Minister will meet the RSS top brass at his residence tomorrow evening.

On the table are discussions on Ayodhya and how the government plans to meet the Sangh-VHP demand for a Ram temple, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s principal secretary and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra’s role, divestment, the Jammu and Kashmir elections and the BJP’s debacle, and mending Sangh-government relations.

BJP sources said defence minister and NDA convener George Fernandes is likely to join the leaders for dinner after the deliberations. Fernandes’ presence is being read as “significant” because, if a decision is made on the suggestion to move a legislation on the Ayodhya land, he will be mandated to speak to the allies and “convince” them.

Sources close to the Prime Minister said doctors would review his medical condition in the morning and depending on their advice, his schedule would be worked out. But Sangh sources said their leaders were given to understand that the much-awaited meeting would take place even if Vajpayee is advised rest. This is because the RSS leaders are leaving on Friday morning for Indore and another date convenient to either side is unavailable in the near future.

The RSS would be represented by sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan, joint general secretary in charge of the political wing Madan Das Devi and veteran leader H.V. Seshadri. Although the RSS wanted to include VHP leader Ashok Singhal, it is learnt that Vajpayee is not keen on meeting him after his recent diatribe against Mishra and the Prime Minister’s Office.

From the BJP, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and party president M. Venkaiah Naidu will be present. Party sources said Naidu was instrumental in arranging the meeting after the recent souring of government-Sangh relations on divestment and Ayodhya.

RSS sources said their leaders would seek an explanation from the Prime Minister why nothing had been done on the Ram temple after an assurance was given to the VHP last March that a “solution” would be worked out in three months.

The sources said the RSS’ principal objective in meeting Vajpayee was to tell him that while other “contentious” matters like divestment and “US intervention” in India-Pakistan relations did not make them lose sleep, Ayodhya could not be wished away.

“It has become virtually the sole reason for the RSS’ existence because divestment and foreign policy are something which must be seen in a larger, global perspective and the Sangh cannot have a direct say at the end of the day,” they added.

Apparently prompted by Singhal’s claim at a news conference yesterday that the home ministry had nothing to do with Ayodhya’s “law and order” last March after the VHP stepped up its agitation, minister of state for home I.D. Swami has stepped in to clarify the matter.

Responding to Singhal’s allegation that instructions on security arrangements were issued directly by the PMO, Swami said on TV today that he and his ministry had handled Ayodhya and the PMO had nothing to do with it.

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