Kanyakumari/New Delhi, July 6: The collapse of the most promising effort to settle the Ayodhya dispute out of court is a blow to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani in many more ways than it is a defeat of the two sides in the negotiations.
A week after a meeting with Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal, the Kanchi Sankaracharya sent clarifications to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board that sealed the fate of the exercise. He made the Muslim leadership offers it could not accept.
First, he said Muslims have to gift the disputed site, withdrawing from his earlier position that this controversy should be left to the judiciary to decide.
Second, he suggested Muslims should also give up Kashi and Mathura, though there is a law prohibiting any change.
The Muslim board rejected the proposals, emphasising the first condition of a democracy: respect for the rule of law. But it did not shut the door on talks.
Nor did the Kanchi seer write off his effort, hoping the Muslim leadership would revert.
That will be small consolation for Vajpayee and Advani, in on the Sankaracharya’s effort together. And no matter how much the BJP and the government try to distance themselves from the seer’s exercise, no one believes he acted without the top leadership’s blessings.
Official sources insisted the Sankaracharya’s effort was “entirely his own”. But there was silence when it was pointed out that Vajpayee had shared a dais with the Sankaracharya on June 8 when he spoke up for an early resolution without allowing political interference.
Efforts were made to bring the VHP around, as evidenced in Uma Bharti meeting Singhal. After RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan’s talks with the Sankaracharya, it was said that there was little, if any, difference between the seer and the Sangh, even the VHP.
The statement was misinterpreted as suggesting that the VHP had fallen in line with the Sankaracharya. Probably, the opposite happened.
His revised proposals have no difference with the VHP’s demands, which will settle for nothing less than a complete surrender by Muslims.
“(The) Ram temple will definitely be built with or without Muslims’ cooperation,” VHP leader Praveen Togadia said.
Another top VHP functionary, Champat Rai, told The Telegraph that parishad leaders would meet here on July 11 and 12 to discuss strategy. The VHP has demanded a legislation to hand over the acquired Ayodhya land to its trust and, with Parliament meeting from July 21, it is expected to start an agitation.
Asked if it would be made an election issue, Togadia said: “It is up to the BJP to decide. The highway to Delhi passes through the Hindu highway that passes through Ayodhya.”
Sangh sources said the RSS and VHP worked according to a strategy to serve the board with an open-and-shut case rather than a way out. The strategy clicked.
For the record, the Sangh and the VHP said the rejection was an “insult to Hindu society”, which meant that publicly they would hold the board responsible for the talks failing.
Sangh spokesperson Ram Madhav said the RSS did not expect a positive outcome, given the “track record” of the Muslim leadership.
One aspect is unexplained — what made the Sankaracharya change his mind' The obvious conclusion is that he was under pressure.
Madhav would not admit that, of course. “It will be an insult to the Swamiji to say he acted under pressure,” he said.
But there is this other question, too: did the seer reformulate the proposal with the knowledge of Delhi' It is difficult to believe he kept Vajpayee and Advani in the dark.
This would indicate that they, too, thought it better to bow to the VHP than provoke the Sangh parivar into working against the BJP in the coming state elections. They keep themselves and the rest of the country hostage to such organisations as the VHP which have usurped the Hindu leadership.
“We can change polity. We can change law,” Togadia proudly pronounced.
Vajpayee will be happy to know, though, that he has been put on the same pedestal as Gandhi, as a villain however.
If Gandhi created one Pakistan, Vajpayee was on the verge of creating “many Pakistans” through his effort to resolve the Ayodhya dispute, Togadia said.