The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal tries to rein in temple storm

New Delhi, Aug. 3: Faced with the threat of an Opposition onslaught in Parliament, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today clarified that his statement last week did not in any way mean abdication of the government’s stand that the Ayodhya dispute should be resolved through a negotiated settlement or a court verdict.

There is no third option, Vajpayee indicated, seeking to set at rest apprehensions raised by his declaration at Ramchandradas Paramhans’ funeral that a temple would be built at the site where an idol of Ram now sits.

Addressing a Delhi BJP delegation, the Prime Minister said: “There has been no change in our stand on the Ayodhya issue. We have been saying from the beginning that a temple should be constructed with mutual agreement, cooperation, amity and goodwill.”

He said efforts were on to sort out the dispute by agreement between Hindus and Muslims. “I believe that these efforts are moving in a positive direction.”

The other option, he added, was leaving it to the court. “Whatever verdict is given by the court should be accepted by all,” Vajpayee said.

“Yesterday, people thought the government’s stand on Ayodhya has changed. There is no reason to change our stand. It remains the same. It was the funeral function of Parmahansji, it was a condolence meeting and I had to make a short speech. Covering all the aspects of Ayodhya issue in my speech was neither possible nor required on that occasion.”

The Prime Minister said that his statement, as reported in the media, had created “some confusion” which he was trying to remove. “There should be no confusion in your mind.”

But the “confusion” reigned. “It has now become a habit of the Prime Minister that he first makes controversial speeches and when the speech is criticised he gives a clarification,” Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy said.

Ram Vilas Paswan, once a Vajpayee ally, said the Opposition would move an adjournment motion tomorrow ( ).

BJP sources said the “clarification” was necessary as Vajpayee has always kept himself above the crossfire over Ayodhya that has rocked Parliament every session since the NDA came to power.

If in the winter session of 2000 he described Ayodhya as a “manifestation of nationalist sentiment” and ruffled the feathers of his secular allies, Vajpayee made up through the Kumarakom musings penned on vacation in Kerala. The musings celebrated India’s pluralist society and tradition of religious tolerance.

Without today’s explanation, the sources said, Vajpayee ran the danger of coming in the firing line in Parliament. He still might, though.

Of course, he had to pacify allies Telugu Desam and the DMK. the BJP sources said the party could not risk the prospect of the DMK siding with the Opposition in Parliament.

Most of all, however, having orchestrated a process of resolving the dispute through talks with the Kanchi Sankaracharya as the mediator, the Prime Minister cannot be seen turning his back on the principle of an amicable settlement.

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