The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CAS ordinance and cabinet on Atal table

New Delhi, July 8: Two days after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the RSS scuttled efforts for a solution to the Ayodhya dispute, the BJP managed to hold its own against its militant sibling by rejecting two of its demands — the Prime Minister’s resignation and a central law for handing over the acquired Ayodhya land.

Following a two-hour meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence late in the evening, BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu described the VHP’s demand for Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s resignation as “baseless” and said: “There is no question of accepting it. PM is (the) BJP leader, the leader of NDA and people of the country and there is no question of accepting any such demand.”

Naidu apart, the meeting was attended by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and finance minister Jaswant Singh. It gathered significance as it was the first time the BJP brass had gathered after the Centre-supported Ayodhya initiative came unstuck. More so, because the VHP kept up the heat on the government by asking for the Prime Minister’s head everyday after the RSS’ Kanyakumari conclave as well as a central law on Ayodhya in the monsoon session.

Although, for the record, Naidu said the meeting did not take up Ayodhya, he made it a point to clarify that the Centre would not bring a law of the kind the VHP wants because the BJP does not enjoy a majority. He reiterated that the party was all for constructing the temple either through a negotiated settlement or a court verdict or a law.

Sources close to Naidu said among the other issues the leaders took up was a tentative agenda for the BJP’s national executive, scheduled for July 19 and 20 at Raipur, the agenda before the monsoon session and the outlook for the four states going to polls. Although the BJP is unlikely to introduce an exclusive Ayodhya resolution in the Raipur session, the overall resolution would certainly refer to it with a sweetener thrown in for the Sangh parivar. That would be that if the BJP got a majority of its own, it would certainly bring the Ayodhya legislation.

The meeting decided to bring an ordinance on a broadcasting regulatory authority to ensure smooth introduction of the conditional access system for cable television.

BJP sources said the meeting also took up the next cabinet expansion and its timing. They said the exercise would be discussed in greater detail in Raipur, where the leaders would be closeted for two days. But since Parliament begins immediately thereafter, the sources said the expansion may be effected after the session ended on August 14.

The BJP hopes the Trinamul Congress — for whom this expansion was being done — would sort out its in-house problems arising from differences between Mamata Banerjee and Sudip Bandopadhyay so that it was “easier” for the Prime Minister to decide who should be absorbed.

Naidu was expected to convey the BJP’s stand on the VHP’s demands to the RSS, which will go into a huddle again from tomorrow in Chennai. Naidu — who was not present at Kanyakumari — will be present at Chennai meeting.

The decision to back Vajpayee and reject an Ayodhya legislation indicated that the BJP was in no mood to antagonise its NDA allies. It seems to have reconciled itself to the inevitability of leading the same coalition in the next elections.

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