The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh torn between BJP and VHP

Kanyakumari, July 4: An Ayodhya settlement represents an existential crisis for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad that its parent, the RSS, wants to stop from developing but without creating one in the bargain for the other offspring, the BJP.

That appears to be the dilemma the Sangh is facing as it goes into a conclave from tomorrow on the eve of the meeting of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board on the Kanchi Sankaracharya’s initiative to resolve the Ayodhya controversy.

While VHP leader Ashok Singhal yesterday ranted about Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s resignation, a Sangh spokesman today neither condemned him nor lent RSS’ voice to his demand.

The same ambivalence, with some indulgence thrown in towards the VHP, showed through in Ram Madhav’s statement before 40 senior Sangh functionaries huddle together, with Ayodhya and the peace initiative with Pakistan expected to dominate the discussions.

Madhav said: “Hindu society wants Ram’s birth place to be handed over to the Hindus. We look at this issue not as a Hindu-Muslim problem but as an issue of national self-respect and honour.”

The “issue” in question was where the Ram temple should be built. Madhav said the Sangh wanted it to be built at the disputed site which would not be such an easy objective to achieve because the court has to first fix ownership.

When this was pointed out, he said: “Here the position is more than the title suit… that (temple at the disputed site) is the core issue.”

He said though the RSS welcomed the Kanchi seer’s initiative, “we want the Sankaracharya also to understand the sentiments of people”. He did not explain who these “people” were.

The RSS, however, said it understood the difficulties being faced by the Vajpayee government in enacting a legislation — a demand that the VHP has repeatedly made — to simply hand over the land for building the temple.

Still, it hoped, it would happen. “We expect some of our members and our people in government will look into it (legislation),” Madhav said.

He indicated that Sangh representatives would hold talks with the government on the legislative option “at an appropriate time”.

Although he welcomed initiatives to resolve the tangle, there was almost this underlying hope that these would not succeed. In the event of negotiations making no headway, “the government can always explore the option of legislation”, he said.

Madhav was with the RSS chief when K.S. Sudarshan met the Sankaracharya a few days ago and came out to announce that the views of the two sides were “almost” alike. Today, he said the RSS was not aware of what the Kanchi seer was “actually negotiating. They are all well-meaning people and their intentions are good”.

Overlooking the fact that under a 1993 law, status quo as of August 15, 1947, had to be maintained on all shrines, he said Kashi and Mathura should be restored to Hindus and could not be traded for the Ayodhya temple.

“It is not acceptable to us. No compromise and no bargaining on Kashi and Mathura. They should be delinked from the Ram temple.”

Madhav dismissed suggestions about differences within the parivar, as evident from a government led by the BJP sponsoring a move for a settlement and the VHP condemning Vajpayee for apparently opposing a temple in strong words.

“All our organisations are free. We all hold the same ideological vision. Differences are differences in perception. BJP also wants an Ayodhya temple (at the disputed site, but has certain compulsions, of a coalition). We will talk and differences will be resolved.”

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