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Vajpayee’s Ayodhya baloon may backfire
By P.M. Damodaran, Lucknow
|The Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee,
has made a number of contradictory and incongruous statements on Ayodhya
issue during the past nine months. His recent observations made at a press
conference in Lucknow, which were later ratified by him in Parliament,
were among the latest in the series.
Mr. Vajpayee at his press conference had said that the talks of different
nature were going on at various levels and he was confident of reaching a
solution to the Ayodhya dispute before March next year, the time set by
the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to start the construction of Ram Temple
there. But he did not elaborate. The Prime Minister repeated his statement
in Parliament where again he refused to divulge the details when the
opposition leaders cornered him on the subject.
Mr. Vajpayee’s remarks had surprised the political circles, as there had
been no evidence of any behind the scene negotiations in the recent months
to resolve the dispute. Both the VHP and the leaders of the Muslim
organizations, the main players in the dispute, have feigned ignorance of
any behind the scene negotiations.
Moreover, a negotiated settlement now seems a remote possibility because
the VHP has taken a belligerent stand on the dispute. It had announced its
plans to construct the Temple at the disputed site from March next year,
come what may. The VHP had asserted that it would go ahead with its plan
irrespective of the results of a court verdict or a negotiated settlement
in the dispute.
The VHP is going ahead with its 65-day Ram Jap programme from November in
two lakh villages in the country to activate its cadres. Around two crore
people are expected to participate in the programme. This will be followed
by the ‘chetna march’ by the sants in January next year from Ayodhya
to New Delhi where they will submit their charter of demands to the Prime
Minister. On the other hand, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB),
a confederation of all Muslim organizations, is meeting in Delhi in early
September to take stock of the situation. Moreover, the Babri Masjid
Action Committee (BMAC) has made it known that the minority community was
not ready to give even an inch of land for the construction of Ram Temple
in Ayodhya under threat.
The Ayodhya dispute has defied a solution through talks during the past
more than a decade and so there was little conviction in the statement of
Mr. Vajpayee that he was confident of arriving at a solution to the
dispute within a short period of next six months. In fact the two former
Prime Ministers, Mr. Chandra Shekhar and Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao, had
initiated serious negotiations with the leaders of both the communities
but the talks led to no where.
Interestingly, the BJP government had so far kept away from holding any
talks with the leaders of the contending parties. A few months ago, the
BJP MP from Faizabad, of which Ayodhya is a part, Mr. Vinay Katiyar, had
half-heartedly attempted to talk to some Muslim leaders to resolve the
dispute. But the talks could not succeed because the firebrand Bajrang Dal
leader could not bring the prominent leaders of the minority community to
the negotiating table. Moreover, what Mr. Katiyar wanted from the Muslim
leaders was merely a ratification of the temple construction plan and not
a discussion on the real issues pertaining to the dispute.
Mr. Vajpayee’s statement is being interpreted as his attempt to dissuade
the VHP from launching its programmes assuring it that a solution to the
dispute will be arrived at before March 12. But there is no surety that
the Prime Minister will succeed in his efforts. Moreover, an unimplemented
promise may backfire. The VHP leaders are already asserting that there is
no option left for the government but to hand over the disputed land to
the organization to start the construction of the temple.
Mr. Vajpayee’s reference of March next year as the deadline for solving
the dispute through talks is important for the simple reason that the
Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in the politically important
state of Uttar Pradesh at that time. The polls are important for the Prime
Minister as well as for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party because the
results may have its impact on the stability of his government at the
centre. Mr. Vajpayee himself has admitted that the BJP has high stakes in
the U.P. polls. The failure of the BJP to come back to power in U.P. may
set forth a political polarization at the national level destabilizing the
government at the centre.
Mr. Vajpayee had been keeping away from making any statement on the
Ayodhya issue since he became the prime minister more than three years
ago. But at a function on December 6 last year, he had described the
Ayodhya movement as “an expression of national sentiments”. When the
opposition parties and even some allies of the ruling National Democratic
Alliance (NDA) severely criticized Mr. Vajpayee’s remarks, he announced
in Parliament that his government would honour a judicial verdict or an
amicable settlement reached between the two communities in the case.
The Prime Minister then made the most controversial statement on the
dispute in his Kumarakom Musings when he remarked that “irrespective of
what the judicial verdict might be, its smooth implementation would
require conducive social atmosphere”. What he apparently meant was that
if the court verdict went against the construction of the Ram Temple, it
would be difficult to implement. If the verdict went against the Babri
mosque, it was not difficult to implement as the minority community had
announced its readiness to accept any verdict given by the court. On the
other hand, the VHP had threatened to go ahead with its plan to construct
the temple even if the court verdict went against it. In his Musings, Mr.
Vajpayee had described the demolition of the disputed structure as a
“flagrant violation of the law, it certainly was. But it was also
totally at variance with the Hindu ethos”! This again attracted
criticism from various quarters.
The judicial verdict is the best, in fact, the only option left to resolve
the dispute. But a verdict in the Ayodhya cases is unlikely to be
pronounced in the near future. The cases are complicated and pending in
the courts, particularly the one relating to the title of the land, for
the past several decades. q