The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress shifts to court route on temple

New Delhi, June 9: In a subtle shift of emphasis, the Congress today slammed the doors on Ayodhya negotiations and said it would only accept a court adjudication that would be final and binding on all.

The court-only route was spelt out within a day of A.B. Vajpayee and the Kanchi Sankaracharya, Swami Jayendra Saraswati suggesting that political parties should stay away from the dispute to help find a non-political solution through talks. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was present at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam when the suggestion was made.

“On Ayodhya, our position is that for any solution to be acceptable to the Congress and the people, it has to be through an adjudication and by a court verdict which would be final and acceptable to everyone,” party spokesman Anand Sharma said. Till now, the party had been advocating the court route and the talks option.

Though Sharma did not say so openly, he made it clear that the Congress disapproved of the Sankaracharya’s endorsement of the Prime Minister’s call to free the process from politics. This is because the party feels the BJP itself has been politicising the Ayodhya issue over the years.

The Congress believes Saraswati was covertly siding with the BJP when he offered to talk to all religious leaders, presumably at Vajpayee’s instance, to find a negotiated solution. Clearly, Sharma was rejecting the Sankaracharya’s mediation offer.

If the message to Saraswati was not clear enough, the Congress spokesman went on to state that Sonia’s sharing the platform with Vajpayee at the function felicitating the Sankaracharya did not mean she shared similar perceptions as those present on the dais.

What Saraswati said yesterday were his own views, Sharma said. “We are not going to make any observation on it,” he added.

The Congress had nothing to do with any talk of negotiations to resolve the Ayodhya issue. The party favoured court adjudication, Sharma said.

Neither the spokesman nor any senior Congress leader was willing to comment on Saraswati’s pat for former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao for allowing the Ram Lalla idol to be installed at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

The Kanchi seer also welcomed another Congress premier, Rajiv Gandhi’s decision to open the locks at Ayodhya. Sharma would only say the history of the dispute and the BJP’s conspiracy to demolish the Babri Masjid were too well-known to necessitate any comment.

The Congress found nothing wrong in Sonia’s decision to attend the felicitation. Sharma said she had shared a platform with many a religious leader and respected the traditions of all faiths.

He recalled that the party chief had shared a dais with Vajpayee during the annual Ram Leela programme in Delhi.

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