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PM statement aimed at UP elections
By Masood Hasan, Lucknow

The statement of the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, describing the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya as a national dream has come in for strong criticism from the opposition parties and Muslim leaders and organizations in Uttar Pradesh. They felt that Vajpayee's statement had come with an eye to catch the votes of the majority community in the next year's Assembly elections in U.P. The Samajwadi Party has alleged that the Prime Minister's statement has thrown the society into a communal turmoil. The Samajwadi Party President, Mulayam Singh Yadav pointed out that Vajpayee had raked up this issue after he found that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was losing its base in U.P. as shown in the recently held civic elections in the state. Yadav termed the incident in Rae Bareli district in the state, in which some part of a mosque was damaged, a fallout of the Prime Minister's statement. He made the alliance partners of the BJP his target when he said that National Democratic Alliance (NDA) alliance partners dared not assail the Prime Minister on this issue lest they feared that they would lose the power. 

The Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress is of the opinion that the Prime Minister had issued the statement only to hide the misrule of his party's government at the centre and in the state. The UPCC chief, Sri Prakash Jaiswal, charged Vajpayee for telling a lie while claiming that the three present union ministers, including L.K. Advani, had gone to Ayodhya in 1992 only to prevent the kar sewaks from demolishing the Babri Mosque. The spokesman of the UPCC, Akhilesh Singh, on the other hand, apprehended that the Prime Minister's statement would create communal frenzy in the country.

The state secretary of the CPI, Ashok Misra, flayed Vajpayee for making the unwanted and unwarranted statements and alleged that the BJP was once again trying to cash in on the communal sentiments by creating a 1992 like situation. Misra challenged the NDA partners to dissociate their relations with the BJP if they cared about secularism. The state president of the National Congress Party, Ramesh Dixit, on the other hand, apprehended that the statement would embolden the vandals who demolished the mosque in Ayodhya eight years ago. Dixit feared that the central government might now surrender to the Sangh Parivar and subvert the secular character of the Constitution. 

The Rashtriya Lok Dal leader, Ajit Singh, termed the statement of PM Vajapyee as a 'somersault'. Singh, with whose party, the BJP wanted to have a tie-up to remain in power in U.P., said that ‘it was just like casting off the mask Vajpayee has been wearing for years’. Singh pointed out that Vajpayee's recent statement on Ayodhya issue was contrary to the stand taken by him in 1992 when he had expressed his anguish over the demolition of the mosque. The spokesman of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Brijendra Kumar Singh, warned that the Prime Minister's statement would create a law and order situation in the country.

The Muslim leaders and organizations have strongly condemned the Prime Minister's statement. The convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee , Zafaryab Jilani, apprehended that Vajpayee's statement might have an impact on the judicial proceedings and could also amount to the interference in the administration of justice. He said that the so-called liberal image of Vajpayee had come under serious doubts after his recent statements. Haji Hashim Ansari, the main plaintiff in the Babri Mosque-Ram Janambhoomi case, alleged that Vajpayee's remarks had exposed the BJP government's hidden agenda. 

Significantly, however, the Bahujan Samaj Party leaders are yet to come out with any statement on the Prime Minister's remarks. The partners of the ruling BJP in the state are also yet to formulate their views on the development. On the other hand, the BJP leaders and the leaders connected with the Ram Temple movement have wholeheartedly welcomed Vajpayee's statement. The president of the state unit of the BJP, Kalraj Misra commented that the Prime Minister had made the statement after due deliberations. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and sants connected with the Ram Temple movement hailed the statement as a precursor to the government's future action.

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