Sept. 21: The VHP tonight said it would “welcome” if L.K. Advani chose to resign, adding to the discomfiture of the solitary leader not to be charged in the demolition case and displaying the outfit’s potential for mischief when the BJP is in ferment over Ayodhya.
Bringing out in the open the fissures within the parivar, VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore asked Murli Manohar Joshi not to withdraw his resignation “under any pressure”.
Kishore then added for good measure: “I will welcome if Advani resigns on the issue.”
The VHP leader, who is among the seven against whom the court decided to frame charges, said he had committed no crime. “But if the law of the land punishes me for it, I am prepared to lay down my life for the sake of the temple construction.”
Kishore is known for taking public potshots at BJP leaders but he has chosen to do so this time when the Ayodhya ruling has driven a wedge through the party.
Kishore’s statement in Ludhiana came on a day Joshi reached Allahabad — his constituency — to what his supporters described as the most “spontaneous ever” reception from the party rank and file. Cries of Atal, Joshi amar rahe rent the air, but there was no mention of Advani.
Joshi also used the opportunity to speak out, terming as “unfortunate” the court’s verdict to frame charges against him and dismissing as “baseless” the allegation that he was involved in the demolition.
The BJP — so far lukewarm to his resignation — seemed to suffer guilt pangs and hinted the court’s ruling might be contested. BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters in Kochi: “We are concerned. We will have to consult as to how to go about it.”
BJP sources indicated that the party would challenge the verdict in Allahabad High Court in an attempt to have it stayed so that Joshi and the others do not have to appear in court on October 10.
“The idea is that if a stay is obtained and he does not have to appear personally, it would make it easy for the Prime Minister to reject his resignation and persuade him to continue,” a source said. Joshi’s resignation is pending with the Prime Minister, who is now in New York.
Sources close to Joshi said he has made it clear that if the judgment is to be contested, it must be done on behalf of all the accused. The sources said when Advani wanted to meet him to discuss the legal process, Joshi said an appeal would have to be made for all the accused and, if there is a discussion, all of them must be present.
Joshi suggested that he would arrange for Advani to meet the other six — Ashok Singhal, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Rithambara and Kishore — over lunch at his place so that they got a chance to give their views and a collective decision could be taken.
Joshi is expected to meet tomorrow RSS sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan, who reportedly curtailed a tour to return to the capital. The Sangh has so far pulled its weight behind him.