The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sena eyes Ayodhya

New Delhi, Sept. 25: With a view to tapping the Hindu vote beyond Maharashtra’s borders and upstaging Sangh parivar outfits, the Shiv Sena has called a “Ram bhakt sammelan” at Ayodhya on October 11 to mobilise support for constructing a Ram temple.

The Sena rally will be the first major test for Mulayam Singh Yadav. The new Uttar Pradesh chief minister has not been able to quell rumours that he has a tacit understanding with the BJP, which allegedly helped him come to power.

Yadav can expect more trouble next month, with the VHP planning a new phase of the temple agitation from October 17. Two days before that, the outfit will stage a rally in Delhi. While the Sena hopes to mobilise 100,000 people, the VHP has a target of 500,000 in mind.

Justifying their decision to hold the sammelan in Ayodhya, Sena leaders said the sants had lost faith in the VHP and the National Democratic Alliance was not doing anything to facilitate temple construction.

The Sena agitation will stretch beyond October. Parliamentary party leader Chandrakant Khaire said the andolan would be in three phases: the first phase, set for October 11, will be led by seniormost Sena leader Subash Desai and all party MPs.

The second phase will be led by Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s son Uddhav, who was recently anointed party president. The patriarch himself will preside over the third phase, Khaire said. The dates for the second and third phases of the agitation have not been fixed.

Yadav is keeping his fingers crossed, but state police are nervous given the Sena’s track record — the party had played a major role in the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992. Although the chief minister has kept quiet, sources said police would do their utmost to prevent any untoward incident. Asked for his stand on temple construction, a mellowed Yadav said the “law will take its course”, in stark contrast to his belligerence of the early 1990s.

Khaire pointedly said the Sena would go ahead with its plans even if the Yadav government did not grant them permission for the sammelan.

Asked why the Sena was organising a separate sammelan and not joining forces with the VHP, Khaire said his party had planned the conference back in June and had received the “blessings” of Mahant Ramchandradas Paramhans, the late chief of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas.

Khaire said the sammelan would pass a resolution on handing over the Ayodhya land to the Nyas and another demanding that a judicial decision be reached on the matter within a certain time-frame.

Several sants, including new Nyas chief Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Vasudevanand Saraswati, Ramanujacharya and Mahant Gyan Das have been invited to the conference, he said.

The Sena’s Uttar Pradesh chief Vijay Tiwari said the party was growing in the state and had over 1,000 representatives in many civic bodies and panchayats there.

VHP senior vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore had last week defended the demolition of the masjid, adding that the Ram temple would be built at “any cost”.

“The VHP had done nothing wrong by demolishing the structure at Ayodhya. In fact, it was a Ram temple which was converted into a mosque during the period of Mughal emperor Babur,” Kishore had said.

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