| L.K. Advani and Kalyan Singh come out of the Hanuman Garhi temple in Ayodhya on Tuesday. (PTI)
Ayodhya, April 6: A young man walked up to the BJP office at Delhi’s Ashoka Road seeking membership.
“What’s your name and where are you from'” he was asked by a party functionary. “I am Lakshman from Ayodhya,” the young man replied. “Do you have any references'” he was asked. “I am the younger brother of Ram,” he said. “Go away. There is no place for you in the party,” he was told.
Meanwhile, another person walked up also inquiring about membership. He said he was “Lakshman from Bhopal”. “Strange that two Lakshmans should want to join the party the same day. Who are you related to'” the party functionary asked. “I am Digvijay Singh’s younger brother,” he replied. He was respectfully ushered into the party.
The first Lakshman was upset. “What have I done wrong' Why have you refused me membership'” he asked. “Don’t you know that Ram is not our agenda'” he was told.
But that was the joke. Now the reality.
In Ayodhya at least, the BJP leadership does not tire of talking of Ram and the Ram temple — especially not L.K. Advani and Kalyan Singh. They were the two central characters in the drama that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Early this morning, Advani visited the disputed site. Visiting the so-called temple amidst the rubble and the archaeological digging ordered by court is like a prison visit, through nearly one-and-a-half km of a barricaded pathway. Monkeys screech and jump overhead and policemen on duty grope you for weapons you might have concealed in your groin or other unmentionable places. Of course, Advani was ushered through without such humiliation.
After seeing Ram Lalla, he told journalists: “When I went to Ramjanmabhoomi this morning, I was filled with the desire to see the day when these barricades would be removed and a grand temple would be built there.”
Advani is all for temple construction after the election. He believes that the Ram temple “movement” united “Hindu society” at a time it was being Mandalised and that now a temple at the disputed site would unite India. Thus he claimed: “Constructing a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya will act as a bridge between Hindus and Muslims in this country.”
Re-electing the BJP to power would assure temple construction, Advani predicted. But he mellowed his promise by saying that this would be achieved through dialogue and not through courts or confrontation.
To further underline his connection with Lord Ram, he told a public meeting here: “In my three yatras up to now, there is one dham (place of pilgrimage) that I always went to — Ayodhya.” Someone in the crowd clapped saying: “Wah mere laal (well done, son)!”
Advani was intent on showing how close the Ram temple construction at Ayodhya was to his heart. He said that the 1990 rath yatra, the first one he undertook, was aimed at drawing parallels between what had been done at Somnath and what needed to be done in Ayodhya.
“My first yatra was inspired by the BJP national executive’s Palampur resolution. It said that just as Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet had decided to build a grand temple out of the ruins at Somnath, Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet should do the same for Ayodhya,” he recalled. In other words, the BJP wanted the Babri Masjid demolished and a temple built in its place much before December 6, 1992.
Kalyan Singh who has returned home to Ram recently was also busy projecting himself as a “Ram bhakt (a devotee of Ram)” at the same public meeting.
He took “full responsibility” for the events leading up to the demolition. He was clever enough, of course, to couch this as executive responsibility. And clever too to say: “It was an unforeseen event... an explosion of Hindu emotions pent up over hundreds of years.”
But what then was he taking credit for' “I was fined Rs 2,000 by the Supreme Court and sent to Tihar jail for a day. So I am closely linked to the Ram temple,” he concluded.
But what if the Ram card did not work, as it did not after the demolition when Faizabad sent a communist to Parliament' “Do not repeat that mistake. We had a tough time explaining to the world how that happened. Do not defame Ram’s birthplace and Ram himself. Because if you do that you would defame yourselves,” warned Kalyan Singh.
Did this mean that Lakshman of Ayodhya might get a better hearing from Advani and Kalyan Singh than from the party apparatchiks' Surely electoral calculations demand that he be admitted to the Ayodhya district unit at least.