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Is VHP backtracking ?
By P.M. Damodaran, Lucknow

Is the VHP again backtracking from its earlier programme of starting the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya from March 12 under pressure from the Sangh Parivar's government leadership? The wavering stand of the VHP has cast doubts on whether it will go ahead with its plan to begin the construction of the temple as announced from March 12.

First, last month the VHP supremo, Mr. Ashok Singhal, changed the stance of the VHP and announced that the deadline of March 12 set by it was only for securing the undisputed land in Ayodhya for Ram temple construction from the central government and not the date for the beginning of the construction of the temple. Mr. Singhal even went to the extent of saying that the VHP was ready to wait for the court to take a decision on the ownership of the disputed 2.77 acres of land where the disputed Babri Mosque structure stood before its demolition on December 6, 1992. He maintained that the VHP could wait till a court decision as it would take years for the artisans to begin the construction of the sanctum sanctorum at the disputed area after the construction work was over in other parts of the temple.

Later, Mr. Singhal made a statement that the VHP might defer its temple construction plan in the event of a war between Pakistan and India. Many other VHP leaders also corroborated his statement. This followed the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee's plea to the Parishad to shelve the temple construction plan for the time being in view of the tension on the border and the situation created by the attack of the terrorists in Parliament House on December 13. He bluntly told the VHP that this was not the time for it to take up the temple issue when the divisive forces were at work. According to the political sources, taking the border situation as a ruse, the VHP may defer its construction plan once again. 

Moreover, for the Sangh Parivar, the rushing through the temple construction plan may not help its political wing the Bharatiya Janata Party, to gain political mileage in the coming Assembly elections in four states, including in Uttar Pradesh. Apparently the VHP had set the deadline of March 12 to begin the temple construction with an eye on the Assembly elections in the politically important state of U.P. But though the Sangh had tested the Ayodhya issue in the run up to the elections recently, it had obviously found that the issue had lost its political value. 
Meanwhile, the Union Home Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani, had rejected the contention that the BJP had used the Ayodhya movement to further its electoral prospects. Deposing before the Liberhan Commission, probing the demolition of Babri Mosque, late last month Mr. Advani maintained that the demolition was, in fact, a big setback for the BJP's status as a party committed to the rule of law. But he admitted that he might have ended his speeches during the Rath Yatra before the demolition of the mosque with the slogan that "we pledge in the name of Lord Ram that the temple will be built at the same (disputed) place". He reiterated his party's view that it wanted to convert a de-facto temple into a de-jure one under the process of law or through agreement between the disputing parties. He contented that his party's participation in the temple movement was to strengthen the 'cultural nationalism' by involving the entire population of the country.

In the meantime, Mr. Advani in his deposition has blamed the police inaction for the demolition of the Babri Mosque on December 6, 1992. But the Union home minister felt that this inactivity of the police personnel was not because of any instructions but was because of the overall climate prevalent (in Ayodhya) at that time. But still Mr. Advani refused to unequivocally condemn the act of the kar sewaks in demolishing the mosque but instead blamed the police for the incident!

In fact the same attitude was adopted by him, his prime minister and the BJP leaders when Mr. Singhal and other VHP leaders had barged into the sanctum sanctorum of the make-shift temple in Ayodhya on October 17 last flouting the court orders and breaking the security cordon around it. The BJP leaders again blamed the security personnel and the police force posted in the disputed area for the lapse and allowed the VHP leaders to go scot free. Again the senior BJP leaders failed to condemn the act of Mr. Singhal and others for entering into the prohibited area in the make-shift temple. The BJP-led government in U.P. had then suspended the sub-divisional magistrate Mr. Alok Verma and the police circle officer Mr. S. Rai for the security lapse as a face saving measure. But significantly the state government has now cancelled their suspension orders!

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