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Published in the 1-15 Mar 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

General Elections 2004
Ayodhya: the ill/good factor
By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA has had a full-term in government and now the BJP wants the country to assess their performance with the slogan of 'fifty versus five' referring to fifty years of Congress rule with five of their own rule. Buoyed by the recent success in the just-concluded assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, BJP wants everyone to see the 'India Shining' and 'Feel Good Factor', through a massive 250- crore advertising project!. Something the newly arrived Chief Election Commissioner has strongly objected to.
AB Vajpayee
Mr Vajpayee, while in Faizabad, told his supporters that his party would this time bank upon on the four R's which stand for Rail, River, Road and Ram Temple. While flagging off a new train from Katra to Faizabad, he announced-that the new railway track and a 3-km long bridge would bring people [read voters] together. 

PM AB Vajpayee wants to sell his Pakistan visit and success of SAARC to Muslims on the one hand and his efforts to pave the way for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya on the other to Hindus. None was surprised when Mr Vajpayee uttered his innermost thoughts on the Ayodhya issue. "Give us one more term to complete the Ram Temple which is lying incomplete," he said on the Hawai Patti, in Faizabad, barely 12-kms from Ayodhya on Feb 7. The PM said that several works relating to the welfare of the public were lying incomplete and they include Ram Temple in Ayodhya as well. He suggested there were two options, one to wait for the court judgement, which is a long winding process and the second was to solve it through mutual talks.

"We know that Mr Vajpayee is nothing but an RSS disciple and has always played the Ram Temple card on every possible pretext, thankfully, this time he is not going back on his words," said Zafaryab Jilani, the national convenor of All India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC).

It would certainly be interesting to learn that Mr. Vajpayee has in the past displayed a 'slip of the tongue' on quite a few occasions. He has very intentionally spoken in two voices, ever since Ram Temple was formally taken up by BJP, in its Palampur, Himachal Pradesh convention ,1989.

He once told the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) rally, in April 1991, that construction of a temple at Ramjanambhumi is necessary because 'national honour' has to be restored, he was then the Leader of the Opposition, and then, the same Mr Vajpayee would lament, 'it was the saddest day in his life'-a day after his VHP colleagues had demolished the Babri Masjid on Dec 6, 1992. At another point, in May 1996, in a televised speech, he said, "If problems related with religion are not resolved for a long time, the result is what happened in Ayodhya, and in Dec 1997 he declared, "Ayodhya will not be a major issue [for BJP] as it was in the previous election, in Bhubaneshwar.” He thereafter listed 'construction of Ram Temple' in BJP manifesto in Feb 1998 and after a controversy which erupted on the construction activity in Ayodhya in June 1998, he wrote to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, "The judiciary will be unfettered in discharging its duty in the Ayodhya matter. Demolition of Babri Masjid was a mishap and mishaps don't get repeated."

While addressing a poll rally on Aug 21, 1999, in Thiruvanathapuram, he confirmed Ayodhya issue to be an intrinsic part of BJP manifesto and just seven days later he remarked, "Ayodhya issue will not be taken up by my government even if BJP get a majority! He went back on his words on Sep 10, 1999, while addressing sadhus demanding a Ram Temple, in New York that should BJP gets a two-third majority, it would endeavour to "fulfill India's Dreams" only to clarify on Sep 11, 1999 that reference to "dreams" was not to Ayodhya and temple as it was not on the NDA agenda. He delivered a virtual bombshell on Dec 6, 2000 by saying that Ramjanambhumi movement was "an expression of national sentiment....still to be realised and told the media that a temple could be built at the disputed site and a mosque built elsewhere. He once again back tracked and told Parliament, "I never asked for building a Ram Temple at the site of the demolished mosque."

"Do the people not remember him expressing his deep desire for a Ram Temple, in his speech on the funeral pyre of Paramhans, on Aug 1, 2003 in Ayodhya. BJP can never forsake the temple agenda despite the show of being principally hypocritic, afterall, this issue made them reach the highest echelon of power from the lowest morass," countered Mohd. Azam Khan, the UP Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development minister. He is also closely associated with the Babri Masjid campaign.

Mr Vajpayee, while in Faizabad, told his supporters that his party would this time bank upon on the four R's which stand for Rail, River, Road and Ram Temple. While flagging off a new train from Katra to Faizabad, he announced-that the new railway track and a 3-km long bridge would bring people [read voters] together. BJP is projecting that after Sher Shah Suri, it is Atal, who has taken up the task of building a network of roads. The four corners of the nation are being linked with the help of express ways and corridors. It was told at the meeting that Rs. 37.5 thousand crore has been pumped into making four-lane roads. To establish an equilibrium between droughts and floods a national river policy has been approved and this is coupled with Rs. 20,000 crore sanctioned for railways in the next budget. With the three R's achieved the final R which represents Ram Temple will also become a reality; if the BJP gets a majority. 
What also merits attention is the reference to the Pakistan sojourn by PM, in his half an hour speech in Faizabad. "We showed Pakistan that we were not wanting in defense and won in the heights of Kargil. Now they are seeking our friendship and we are ready with this option too." "Vajpayee has just undone what he had already done. We still do not have the record of full facts of the Parliament attack on Dec 13, 2001. His government banned over-flights, stopped Samjhauta Express, snapped Bus service, withdrew High Commissioner and expelled Pakistan High Commissioner, slashed diplomatic staff, mobilised lakhs of army on borders to no avail and now one fine morning everything has been rolled back, what is the fun in it I ask," shot back Azam Khan. 

The saffron fervour of BJP which had got blurred, or to some extent eclipsed, made yet another come back with the homecoming of UP ex-CM Kalyan Singh. Kalyan Singh rejoined BJP after four-years of his estrangement with AB Vajpayee. His induction is being utilised by BJP as a 'temple call' because it was Kalyan Singh, the Lodh Backward Caste leader, who presided over the demolition of Babri Masjid as UP CM in 1992. He touched his masters feet [Vajpayee and LK Advani's both] and asked for the responsibilities he was to be entrusted with." I am only a junior party worker... firstly, I asked for Vajpayeeji's blessings. Secondly, I surrendered myself before him. Thirdly, I wanted to be accepted in totality by the party and is commanded to do what the party high command decides," he said after his return from Delhi to Lucknow on Feb 5. He had joined Samajwadi Party led rainbow coalition under Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP from which he has now resigned. 
The example of Kalyan Singh is a unique case of the infighting and groupism within BJP. He was ousted as UP CM and a septuagenarian Ram Prakash Gupta was made the CM. Thereafter, the once 'Mahesh-Hindu Lord of destruction' was expelled from BJP. Kalyan in return accused Vajpayee for sacrificing Ram over office and VHP & RSS having betrayed him over the demolition of Babri Masjid. "If he had guts he should have testified against his masters before Justice Librehan Commission probing the Babri Masjid demolition instead of fooling people through media gimmicks," retorted Azam Khan.

"Pahuchi waheen par khaaq/Jahan ka khameer tha," Azam satired. He also pointed that a secular man may become communal but certainly a communal man can never become secular. Azam vent his ire, " Kalyan Singh was thrown in the dustbin despite his villainous role in Babri Masjid demolition because Brahminised BJP can never swallow a Backward Caste man even if he belongs to their fascists school. His expulsion was a use and throw act and his re-induction is like using a used tissue paper again."

"Defeat communal forces and let the coming elections be the last wake up call," came the call from former PM Chandrashekhar who was in the state capital on Feb 9. He urged the youth to unmask all politicians indulging in politics in the name of religion, caste and creed. He did not lose the opportunity of accusing BJP of using public money on 'Feel Good Factor' propaganda. While addressing the convention, he said further that the biggest challenge before the country was to maintain the unity and indivisibility. He did not name AB Vajpayee directly but accused his party of resorting to Ayodhya issue whenever elections came near. He also pointed towards the greater need of a 'Secular Front' formation but which is not becoming a reality owing to the distrust of its constituents towards each other. He advised the constituents of such a combine to take up the issue in the post-poll scenario. But, Mr Vajpayee has of now very assiduously projected his government achievements and wants the nation to give NDA a second run.

"Well, BJP and its inseparable communalistic and fascist ally VHP has already brought India's image crashing down to ignoble insignificance. VHP’s Praveen Togadia has publically admitted his role in Gujarat pogrom against Muslims [April 2, 2003 I.Express] and Narendra Milosevic Modi is ruling in Gujarat over Muslim mass graves. Wonder how insensitive Indians would get to give another chance to Vajpayee," snapped Azam Khan.

Hectic political provisions are made anew in Lucknow, many are still to come, until the elections are over to make more forays for BJP. But, owing to the flop show of Oct 17, 2003 by VHP in Ayodhya, it is becoming exceedingly clear that the temple issue has lost almost all its sheen as masses are no longer lured by emotive issues. Perhaps, it is time for politicians to see the glaring ground reality of eradicating the poverty of 320 million Indians who still live below the bare minimum poverty line.

Jaga hai ye Bharat/Naya hai ye ujyara [India has woken up/ New light is coming...] goes the line of the advertisement to brighten BJP's image in all the electronic TV channels. "Kya BJP se pahle Bharat ast ho gaya tha" [Did India become downcast before BJP] Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president has asked all Indians.

What would be the outcome of the election can be anyone's guess but it is certainly time for all Indians to really think about the real nomenclature of what makes BJP. It has raked the issue of Sonia Gandhi's origin time and again irrespective of the fact that Sonia is a daughter-in-law of a nation which believes in Vasudev Kutumbukum [Universal Brotherhood] and Atithi Devo Bhawa [Guest is God].

Perhaps, the time has come to sit up and ponder and analyse which of the two political ideologies are better for a new and a more better India. When will that real dawn occur when every Indian would be physically fit and morally upbeat and walk with his head held high. When will the yearnings of Rabindra Nath Tagore take shape? No ready made answers, please.
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