The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal balances on temple trapeze
- PM massages VHP, but sticks to talks

Raipur, July 19: Hours after the BJP national executive passed its resolution on Ayodhya, which was high on tokenism and low on promises, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to end its slanging match with the party.

Vajpayee said he would welcome “constructive” suggestions from the VHP and held out an olive branch. “It is nobody’s intention to humiliate the VHP by keeping it out of any negotiation that could lead to a solution,” he said.

But this sop was followed by the assertion that on Ayodhya, he would do what he thought was “right” and would not compromise. “Phir bhi jo sahi samajhte hain, vah karte rahenge, us se peechhe hatenge nahin (Even so, whatever we think is right, we will keep doing that and we will not budge from that),” he was quoted as saying in a press handout of his address.

The “right” direction, Vajpayee indicated, was a negotiated settlement. “We passed a resolution on Shri Ramjanmabhoomi. It would be nice if a temple was built on Ram’s birthplace. We wish that this issue is resolved in a spirit of communal harmony. In this endeavour, negotiation is the most important path to take and we will continue walking on that path.”

Gently rebuking the VHP, the Prime Minister said nobody wanted to “humiliate” it by keeping it out of the Ayodhya talks. “There is a chance that differences can arise. But we should not allow allegations and counter-allegations to be levelled. We are always open to constructive suggestions. But by making unnecessary allegations, the whole atmosphere gets vitiated.”

Vajpayee’s submissions on Ayodhya — his first after the Kanchi Sankaracharya embarked on the latest round of talks with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board — indicated that like his party, he was forced to walk a tightrope between keeping the RSS in good humour and not allowing it and the VHP to dominate the Ayodhya agenda.

In the Ayodhya resolution passed by the BJP, the party said the legislation option should be explored but added that this would be “fruitful” only if the NDA allies and the Opposition supported the move.

The Prime Minister underlined the importance of keeping the NDA intact before the next Lok Sabha polls and asked the BJP to induct those parties who wished to join the coalition. “Making the NDA and sustaining it has been a unique experiment…. New people are willing to join the coalition, they must be brought in.”

At the same time, Vajpayee stressed the importance of making the BJP stronger and, from that perspective, the Raipur meeting was significant.

That elections were on the Prime Minister’s mind was evident in his call to imbue the country’s economy with a “human face”. He packaged his government’s economic achievements in a swadeshi wrapping.

Referring to the economic resolution adopted by the executive, Vajpayee said: “Our economy is polevaulting ahead. There is progress on the development index. Those living below the poverty line are fewer in number. New enterprises are coming up in hitherto unexplored sectors. Employment opportunities are growing. In one sense, the objective of swadeshi order has been successfully met.”

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