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

Temple tantrums to the fore again
By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: Forget ‘India Shining’, forget ‘Feel Good Factor’ (a 250 billion rupees publicly funded by as campaign money) as Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is back on its time-tested USP, the call for the construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya, district Faizabad, UP.

BJP Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani’s Bharat Uday Yatra, started to counter Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s ‘Road Show’, finally reached Ayodhya on April 6 and immediately joined the chorus for the promise of building the Ram Temple at Ayodhya.

Ayodhya, however, this time did not evoke any enthusiasm as its residents were pretty agitated calling the visit rajnaitik tamasha (political drama). Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) too found it convenient to paste posters reminding Advani of the promise of Ram Temple construction and stayed away and did not try to add to the otherwise small crowd.

"We have made some positive inroads into evolving a formula towards reaching a negotiated settlement to the Ayodhya issue, said LK Advani while addressing a press conference in Ayodhya." Over the last six-years our government has tried to find an amicable solution and even today we are involved in parleys with certain parties for an enduring solution," he said. He however, refused to divulge the names of the parties involved in talks.

"The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the sole Muslim representative body, has made it amply clear on Dec 7, 2003 by organising a seminar ‘Babri Masjid Problem-Court Verdict Only Solution’ that only courts can decide the matter," snapped Zafaryab Jilani, the counsel of Sunni Central Waqf Board (SCWB) and convenor of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC).
"Actually, Advani and company are playing a very dirty game by fooling both Hindus and Muslims. Hindus are taken for a ride that BJP is trying its best to build the temple, and hence, it could be given another chance; while, Muslims are being kept in the dark as to who and which makeshift Muslim organisation is engaged in talks with BJP," he elaborated further. 

"There is no need for a personal law and there should be only one law covering all citizens. We are also in favour of abrogation of Article 370 accorded to Jammu and Kashmir as it was appropriated during emergent conditions which do not exist now," said UP BJP election committee president and Ex. CM of UP Kalyan Singh. Kalyan Singh had left BJP in 1999 to form his own party but has recently gone back into BJP fold.

"Personal Law is our fundamental right and we will fight tooth and nail if it is meddled with. It is our right enshrined in our constitution," pointed Yaseen Ali Usmani who is also a member of AIMPLB.

It may also be taken into consideration that ‘Atal Bihari Himayat Committee’ has also sprung up in Delhi, Arif Mohd. Khan, Ex. MP is contesting on a BJP ticket from Qaiserganj, UP. Basheer Badr, Manzar Bhopali and Athar Nabi have formed ‘Atal Bihari Fan Club’ and are singing poetry for AB Vajpayee and the media is agog with news headlines of Muslims supporting BJP. "Basheer Badr is a traitor," said Munawwar Rana for misleading him into attending a function which supported BJP. Malikzada Manzoor Ahmad Khan was also present in the press meet.

"This is the game-plan of Rashtriya Swamsewak Sangh (BJP’s parent party) to send a message to the overwhelming secular Hindus of the nation to sway them towards BJP by showing some Muslims on payrolls dancing to the BJP tune. Not even .001% Muslims will vote for BJP," said Usmani, head of the 13 committees under All India Milli Council (AIMC) dispatched over 13-zones in UP to mobilise Muslim opinion into ousting BJP from Centre.

Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, meanwhile, found it convenient to showcase his policies through his 16-page manifesto. In it he reiterated his stand that the court’s verdict should be decisive and binding in the Babri Masjid title-suit and did not give credence to the much-touted talks for an out-of-court settlement of Babri Masjid issue. He clarified that no interference would be allowed in Muslim Personal Law. He also said big no to the abolition of Article 370 from the constitution. The party promised to introduce Hindi in all the official work and Urdu to be linked with the livelihood of the people. He called protection to all religious places and added that those involved in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and in the demolition of Babri Masjid would be brought to justice. Well said, but what is intriguing and baffling is as to why he did not issue a fresh notification on Oct 18, 2003, and instead, parroted the line of BJP and later on BSP-BJP government of getting the case of Babri Masjid demolition accused tried out in Rae Bareilly, UP instead of at a Special Court in Lucknow with the conspiracy charge against LK Advani being dropped too! "Mulayam Singh should not forget that his party’s base vote is of Muslims and if Muslims desert him SP would be reduced to dust," cautioned CM Shukla Advocate and political analyst.

Perhaps, no matter how appalling it is to tell all politicians, the grim reality about UP, as it would be very ironical to know, that the state of UP despite being the most politically volatile state also tops the national figures in terms of apathy towards hunger, health, hygiene and education! Also more than one child dies in UP very minute and the under five-mortality rate is 123 over 1000. The chronic malnutrition in children is 55.5%- the highest in the country. 
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