The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal juggles with CM’s temple cry

New Delhi, Oct. 12: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has requested the Prime Minister and his deputy to stop the Vishwa Hindu Parishad from going ahead with its “mass awareness” campaign on the Ram temple.

The VHP has already started mobilising kar sevaks for the October 17 campaign in Uttar Pradesh. It has also planned a congregation at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan.

Responding to Mulayam Singh’s request, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on his return from Thailand today, said: “VHP is saying that it will do everything in a peaceful manner. Us par vishwas kiya jana chahiye (We should have faith in what they say).”

The BJP, however, is caught between its RSS mentors and Mulayam Singh, who has just been installed as chief minister following Mayavati’s exit. The war between the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party is, at present, running high with both sides hurling charges at each other.

The BJP would thus not like to destabilise Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party regime at this juncture and would ideally not want the VHP agitation to get out of hand.

The Centre would be saved a great deal of embarrassment if the VHP stuck to its promise and conducted the agitation peacefully. On the other hand, the government would be forced to intervene if the outfit’s volunteers turned nasty.

Neither the Centre nor Mulayam Singh would want a standoff at this moment. The chief minister, too, is under pressure as he would not want a total rupture with the Centre just now but would have to deal with the Ram temple situation firmly to keep his Left friends happy.

Leaders of the CPM and the CPI have urged him not to fail this litmus test — which they believe will be a test of Mulayam Singh’s secular credentials.

Left leaders were sceptical of the Prime Minister’s comments today. “What is the worth of the VHP’s assurance' They are not bound by any code of conduct to stay peaceful,” a Left leader said. He recalled the BJP giving a similar assurance in 1992, before the National Integration Committee, of a peaceful programme in Ayodhya on December 6. “We all know what happened after that.”

Not willing to take any chances, Mulayam Singh has given the go-ahead to arrest Shiv Sena volunteers who began trooping in yesterday for a Ram bhakt sammelan. Police have arrested over 1,500 sainiks.

Sharad Sharma, the VHP’s media-in-charge in Ayodhya, has maintained that the “mass awareness” programme of October 17 stands and any attempt to “crack down on the peaceful Ram Bhakts” will inflame the situation.

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