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Since 1st March, 1999
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Naidu signals UP test for Ram return

New Delhi, Aug. 27: The romance with Mayavati over, and hopes of a Dalit-upper caste alliance for the Lok Sabha polls dashed, the BJP has indicated Hindutva would be back in political business and Uttar Pradesh could be the testing ground.

BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu today told reporters he has asked state leaders to make a “concerted effort to see Uttar Pradesh politics moves away from caste to principles, ideology and real issues”. “A new chapter should begin,” he said. “The BJP should make efforts in this direction. The task is not easy but it is not impossible at the same time.”

After the leg-up from the ASI report, which said archaeologists found evidences of a temple beneath the ruins of the Babri Masjid, Naidu signalled that the Ram temple would again symbolise Hindutva in the BJP’s political discourse, though his words seemed less harsh than the rhetoric of L.K. Advani’s rath era.

“The ‘ultimate evidence’ sought by the critics of the temple in the form of ASI excavations is also before us now,” Naidu said. “With this, the dispute should be put to rest and all of us should come together to rebuild the Ram temple.”

The BJP chief’s new endeavour was to project the temple issue as a pan-nationalist “mission”, not a Hindu-centric and communal one. “This is the moment for all communities to shed past differences and concentrate on the national mission to make India a proud, prosperous and secure nation. A united approach for the construction of the Ramjanmabhoomi temple will be an important symbolic step in that direction,” he said.

Naidu claimed this was the “wish of the BJP and the people of the country” and the argument he put forward was all communities have to “co-exist” and get on with life. “How long can we fight over a single issue'” he said.

Asked how the BJP’s allies at the Centre would react to the revival of the temple plank, considering that it was excluded from the common agenda of governance, Naidu said: “There is no need for the NDA to agree or disagree. If Hindus and Muslims agree, there is no need for others. In fact, I appeal to political parties not to get into our way.”

BJP sources maintained that it was premature to speculate on whether today’s statements from Naidu meant that the party would have a separate manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections. They said the “temple talk” was primarily intended to reassure the Uttar Pradesh cadre — who have been feeling “shackled” for the last one year or so during the alliance with Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party — that the BJP had not deviated from its original ideology.

Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Vinay Katiyar will launch a campaign early next month to demand that the Ayodhya land should be handed over to the VHP trust to start temple construction.

Naidu said that as the temple issue involved “sentiments, faith and historical evidence”, and “all three were before everybody”, Muslim organisations and “pseudo-secularists” would commit a “grave injustice” if they continue to oppose it. “They would be unjust to the country and the crores of Ram bhakts.”

He questioned the right of dissent against the report. “It is unfortunate that some of the contending parties in the court are now saying that the ASI report is doctored. The court agreed to all the demands of such concerned parties during excavations. Upon their allegation that the internationally reputed archaeologist and chief scientist of the ASI Mr Mani was not impartial to them, the court had him replaced. Even the workforce used for digging was picked on the basis of religious ratio on the insistence of these parties. Hence their criticism of the ASI is unjustifiable.”

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