The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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I’ll quit, not cave in: Atal
Outburst at temple barb

New Delhi, Aug. 4: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today told the Lok Sabha he would rather “quit government” and walk away than change his stand on Ayodhya under any “compulsion”.

“There is no compulsion. The day I am under compulsion, I will quit raajpaat and go,” he declared after Mulayam Singh Yadav needled him saying he was “helpless” and under pressure to build a Ram temple.

Vajpayee’s dramatic rebuttal came in the face of an Opposition onslaught over his remarks at Ramachandradas Paramhans’ funeral that the mahant’s last wish of a Ram temple would be fulfilled. But the Congress-led Opposition refused to buy his statement and walked out.

“In my speech at Ayodhya, I have not changed my stand or stated anything controversial on the Ayodhya issue. Nor did I any time say that the temple will be forcibly constructed,” Vajpayee said, urging the Opposition to carefully examine his words.

“I have not said how the temple will be built, who will build it and where it will be built… I had only said I am confident that the wish of Paramhansji would be fulfilled.”

Vajpayee contended he had not said anything new on Ayodhya that he had not said a hundred times in the past. Besides, the occasion had been a sad one. “If on such an occasion one says that his (the mahant’s) dream (of a Ram temple) would be fulfilled, there should not be any objection,” he said.

In the morning, the Opposition had trooped into the House all prepared to confront the Prime Minister. As many as four Opposition leaders — Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee, Samajwadi chief Mulayam and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan — had submitted adjournment motion notices to the Speaker for an immediate discussion.

Pressing their case for debate, the Opposition leaders made two points: one, that Vajpayee’s remarks constituted a change in the government stand; and two, that he modified his stand “under compulsion”. The twin charges were enough to provoke the Prime Minister into saying a few strong words.

“You are under compulsion. You are helpless but don’t make the country helpless. This will ruin the country and divide society. You must express regret,” Mulayam said, raising the Prime Minister’s hackles.

Vajpayee trashed the Opposition charge that he had been frequently changing his stand on Ayodhya and had tried to gain political mileage while the mahant’s pyre was still burning.

“The Prime Minister is also a citizen. He is also made of bone and flesh. As a citizen of the country, he is also entitled to have his sentiments and feelings. But I also know how to express them in a restrained manner.”

Taking a dig at the Opposition, Vajpayee said that instead of taking him on, it should “compliment” him for not getting carried away at the funeral. After all, the mahant had been involved with the temple movement for a long time and had dedicated his life for the cause.

The Prime Minister carried on in his hard-hitting manner in the Rajya Sabha, asking legislators to get their facts right before stirring up a controversy. He junked the charge of misuse of the CBI in the Babri demolition case, saying his government had issued no instruction to the agency nor had charges against leaders been withdrawn.

The Sangh parivar came out in defence of Vajpayee, saying there was “nothing wrong” in what he had said in Ayodhya.

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