The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ram yes, but no rath

New Delhi, Oct. 27: Has Lal Krishna Advani lost sight of the grand vision of the Ram temple' No.

Is he embarking on Ram Rath Yatra II tomorrow' The answer again is 'no'.

Taking over as BJP president for the fifth time after the party's national council ratified his appointment today, Advani performed the immediate task of boosting the morale of the cadre who had looked forward to a win in Maharashtra to recover from the Lok Sabha poll shock.

That hope dashed, Advani fell back on the time-tested 'mandir mantra' to be greeted with cries of 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Jo Hindu hit ki baat karega, wohi desh pe raaj karega (those who champion the cause of the Hindus will rule this country)'.

The BJP faithful in Talkatora stadium were largely unmoved by other issues the new party president spoke of.

It was the first time in six years that a BJP leader has publicly waxed eloquent on Ayodhya. As the fulcrum of the coalition that ruled in Delhi, the party was careful not to raise the issue for fear of upsetting its 'secular' allies.

Still, Advani's statements today were tempered with the reminder that the BJP had traversed a long way since the mandir era and that it could no longer afford to have the Ram temple on top of its agenda or trigger the kind of passion his 'rath yatra' had unleashed if it were to be seen as a party of governance.

In 1990, he rode the Ram 'rath' to steer his party to its first spectacular performance in the Lok Sabha and Uttar Pradesh elections.

'The nation eagerly looks forward to the day the makeshift temple at Ram Janmabhoomi is replaced by a structure befitting the greatness of Lord Ram. At the same time, we must be candid enough to recognise that the Hindu anger that exploded on the streets in the early nineties has given way to a patient wait for the new temple whose construction is, I feel, inevitable.'

After the Maharashtra setback, RSS leaders have started to say more strongly that the BJP should return to its Hindutva roots. Advani would have had this in mind, too, when he harked back to the Ram temple project.

Advani explained what he meant by Hindutva. 'The issue extends beyond the Ram temple. A cogent and enlightened Hindu approach to the modern world demands a Hindu renaissance much along the lines Swami Vivekananda envisaged.'

There was much that he said to underline the commitment to the temple. 'For the BJP, and for me, personally, the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was a defining landmark. I have little hesitation in saying that it was our participation in this movement of Hindu resurgence that fired the people's imagination and catapulted the party to national prominence.'

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