DIGVIJAY TARGETS SANGH MONOPOLY 

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By FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
  • Published 23.12.00
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New Delhi, Dec. 23 :    New Delhi, Dec. 23:  Pro-reforms and Sonia Gandhi's favourite chief minister Digvijay Singh now plans to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sangh parivar on the contentious Ayodhya issue by staking claim to construct the Ram temple. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister said the Ram temple in Ayodhya should be built by the Ramanand sect headed by his guru Swami Ramnareshacharya and not by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or the Ramjanambhoomi Nyas Trust led by Mahant Ram Chandra Paramhans. "Diggy Raja" made the observations while felicitating Swami Ramnareshacharya on his 75th birthday. The Congress leader's stand on the Ayodhya dispute is at variance with the cautious approach of the Congress, which is silent on who should built the temple in case the courts give the go-ahead or an out-of-court settlement is reached in favour of the temple. The main Opposition party is defensive about the Ayodhya issue. Every time it is asked about the dispute, the party responds with two statements - the Congress will abide by the court verdict and it is in favour of an out-of-court settlement provided the two communities accept mutual adjudication. The Congress is also guarded on the Rajiv Gandhi government's move to hold shilanyas (laying of the foundation stone) in 1989. Digvijay, a self-confessed practising and devout Hindu, however, made no reference to the site on which the Ramanand sect intends to construct the temple. His detractors accuse him of crossing the laxmanrekha of party discipline claiming that his remarks will evoke an adverse reaction from the minorities. But the chief minister is unfazed. Sources close to him said he was against the construction of the temple at the disputed site without a court verdict or an out-of-court settlement. They said Digvijay is among the few Congress leaders who favour a categorical sta-nd on the Ayodhya issue, which involves religious sentiments. He also plans to challenge the BJP-VHP's claim that they are the sole representatives of the majority community. "The Ramanand sect led by Ramnareshacharya does not get along with the VHP and the Sangh parivar. If Diggy Raja's line gains credence, the BJP and its allies will lose political mileage," an AICC functionary said. Digvijay's supporters said the Congress should shed its reticent approach towards the Ayodhya issue and take a firm stand to counter the BJP and its allies. "Every time the issue is raised, we run for cover. It is high time that we say that we are for temple if the courts prove that there existed a temple," a Congress MP from Punjab said. Digvijay's initiative on Ayodhya comes at a time when the jagatguru shankaracharya of Prayag peeth, Swami Madhavanand Saraswati, has already engaged in a dialogue with Muslim organisations for an out-of-court settlement. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had told the Rajya Sabha that talks between religious leaders had begun. Vajpayee was hinting at the initiative taken by John Joseph, a member of the National Minorities Commission to work out an out-of-court settlement.