New Delhi, April 20: The BJP leadership appears to have left the two leading lights of the Ram temple movement - L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi - to fend for themselves in the Babri demolition case, while seeking to reap political mileage from yesterday's developments.
"The party is sure of the innocence of its leaders," law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said today, asked about the Supreme Court's directive to revive criminal conspiracy proceedings against the two veterans and other BJP leaders.
"The law will take its own course," Prasad added.
Beyond this routine statement, the Narendra Modi government has refrained from defending either Advani or Joshi.
The top court had yesterday directed the revival of conspiracy charges in the 1992 Babri demolition case against a host of BJP leaders, including Advani, Joshi, Kalyan Singh, the current governor of Rajasthan, Union minister Uma Bharti and Ayodhya spearhead Vinay Katiyar.
Some old-timers had hoped the party would back Advani and Joshi vociferously as the temple movement in the early nineties had transformed the fortunes of the BJP, pushing it from the fringe to the centre.
Far from backing them, the BJP had last evening rushed to deny news running on one channel that party chief Amit Shah had spoken to Advani after the Supreme Court's ruling earlier in the day. Party managers called journalists and said the news was baseless and asked them not to run it.
Finding that no one from the party was coming to their defence, Joshi had last evening driven to Advani's residence where the two held a 40-minute meeting. Both leaders, and even people close to them, remained tight-lipped on what they discussed.
"It is obvious that they discussed the court verdict and their future course of action," an old-timer said.
In party circles, the revival of the criminal conspiracy case is being seen as the end of the road for Advani and Joshi who are both aspiring to become the country's next President.
Legally, yesterday's court verdict doesn't bar either from becoming a candidate in the presidential elections this July as they have not been convicted. But many in the party feel that the verdict could be used as an excuse to deny them a chance.
On another front, the leadership also moved swiftly to stop Uma, another accused in the case, from travelling to Ayodhya to seek the blessings of "Ram Lalla" (infant Ram).
Sources said Shah asked Uma to avoid going to Ayodhya and make an issue out of the court verdict. A section of the BJP, however, said the leadership didn't want Uma to grab centre stage over an issue the party feels could help it generate public opinion in favour of a Ram temple.
Uma, a key figure in the Ram temple movement, had appeared to rejoice in the court ruling yesterday, saying she was ready to go to prison or be hanged for India and a Ram mandir.
The government has ruled out Uma's resignation as water resources minister.
Asked if Uma would continue as a minister, finance minister Arun Jaitley had yesterday targeted main rival Congress. "If being chargesheeted was a rule for removal, then very few Congress chief ministers would be left," he had said without elaborating.