The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP mentions Ayodhya law with caveat

Raipur, July 19: The BJP today attempted a balancing act on Ayodhya, pacifying the RSS-VHP with the assertion that the option of legislation should be explored but adding that this would not be “fruitful” till the NDA partners and the Opposition, the Congress in particular, supported the move.

Contrary to expectations, the BJP did not even state that such a law could be passed only if it was voted in with a majority. This indicated that pragmatism had got the better of rhetoric and the party felt it was more important to keep the coalition afloat till the general elections than to indulge the Hindutva forces with unrealistic promises.

The much-awaited Ayodhya resolution — adopted after a nearly two-hour discussion in the BJP national executive where most members spoke, barring the Prime Minister, his deputy and the party president — underlined that a negotiated settlement was still the “best option”.

“This would promote communal harmony and national integration. There is a rapidly growing public opinion, in both communities, that this issue should not remain unresolved any longer because of it having become a source of contention and tension. Hence, the dialogue process should continue in a spirit of goodwill and mutual understanding,” the four-paragraph resolution stated.

The first draft of the resolution had no mention of an Ayodhya legislation. But to appease the VHP, party leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Pramod Mahajan and V.K. Malhotra reworked it to include the option.

Later, BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan explained why the party thought a dialogue was the best way out. “If the two disputing sides agree, it carries much more weight than a court or a Parliament decision. A court verdict will not satisfy both sides equally. A Parliament decision too may be construed as unjust and seen as something forcibly pushed through with a majority by the dissatisfied party. Only a mutual settlement will be accepted as fair and just.”

However, the offer of a negotiated settlement — despite Mahajan’s efforts to package it reasonably— seemed as token as the assurance of a law. While Mahajan ruled out a legislation being brought in the present Lok Sabha, he was equally firm that the BJP would not compromise on the sticky point of building a Ram temple on the site of the demolished Babri mosque, where a makeshift temple now stands. “The temple will be built on the same site,” he asserted.

Asked what Muslims would get in return for giving up the land, he replied: “Give and take is not needed in negotiations. It is not necessary to give anything in return (to the Muslims).”

Mahajan maintained that the negotiated process would not have a time frame. “Our effort would be to ensure both sides continue talking,” he said. “The NDA was formed after the 1998 parliamentary elections. In the national agenda of governance that the NDA adopted at the time, as also its common manifesto for the 1999 parliamentary elections, there was no reference to the issue of Ayodhya. Nevertheless, there was broad consensus on resolving this issue either through dialogue or a judicial verdict.”

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