The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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B-teams clash in House

New Delhi, Feb. 24: Sadhus raised frenzied cries of “Jai Shri Ram” outside Parliament today as BJP members in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha demanded the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya despite their leaders’ reluctance to discuss the subject.

Through the acrimonious exchanges in the Lok Sabha, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj refused to be drawn into a discussion on Ayodhya though their own flock as well as the Left and the Samajwadi Party members forced it.

“As is customary, there should be no other discussion before we take up the discussion on the vote of thanks for the President’s address,” Swaraj said.

The Lok Sabha was scheduled to take up the motion for the vote of thanks after the question hour. But BJP members demanded that the issue raised by the sadhus outside Parliament be considered first.

The frontbenchers of the Congress, the main Opposition party, left it to other parties to slug it out with the treasury bench.

Shivraj Patil, deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, watched quietly while Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, the party chief whip, occasionally came up with a retort.

The noisy protests came mostly from the Congress middle ranks — MPs who questioned the spiritual credibility of the sadhu demonstrators. “There should be a CBI inquiry into the credentials of these sadhus, whether they are really sadhus or thieves,” a Congress MP said.

In the Upper House, senior Congress MP Kapil Sibal raised the Ayodhya issue and accused the BJP of nurturing obscurantist values and destroying the country’s multicultural fabric.

CPM MP Basudev Acharia moved an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha, focusing the House’s attention on the VHP dharma sansad’s “inflammatory” statements yesterday in Delhi. Ram Ragina Mishra, a BJP MP, hit back: “What can communists say on this issue' They have always been traitors to the country. They do not believe in religion.” His colleagues chanted “Jai Shri Ram” as he said this.

CPM’s Somnath Chatterjee retorted: “I am very glad they have found we will never support them and will fight till our last breath any attempt to divide the country.”

Mishra dangled a bait at the Congress and said: “The Congress as the largest Opposition party should support the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.” The Congress’ muted response indicated its reluctance to take on the sadhus on the eve of the Himachal Pradesh polls.

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