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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Vishwa Hindu Parishad
Another election, another campaign
By P M Damodaran

Lucknow: In the past one decade, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had been raking up the Ayodhya issue in the run up to the elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies to help the Bharatiya Janata Party perform better in the polls. It will not be different in this year’s Lok Sabha elections and the assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. 

The VHP is now chalking out another wave of Ram Temple movement from March this year coinciding with the Lok Sabha polls, which the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government now plans to hold in April-May instead of in September. In the last two years, the VHP had intensified the temple movement in the wake of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
In its present movement, the VHP will organise a ten-day Sri Ram Mahayagna in Ayodhya from March 21which will culminate on the occasion of Ram Naumi on March 30. It is planning to bring maximum number of leading Dharmacharyas and sants to Ayodhya to make it a big affair. A Dharam Sansad may be convened during the yagna to chalk out the future course of action. Dharam sabhas will also be held at various places in the coming months in support of the temple construction.

The VHP had drafted a 40-point Hindu agenda in the wake of the last Lok Sabha elections in 1999. It had then announced that it would support the political parties which accepted its agenda. Apparently, only the BJP accepted it in principle but it could not implement the agenda due to coalition compulsions.


The VHP had drafted a 40-point Hindu agenda in the wake of the last Lok Sabha elections in 1999. It had then announced that it would support the political parties which accepted its agenda. Apparently, only the BJP accepted it in principle but it could not implement the agenda due to coalition compulsions. Yet the VHP extended its help to the BJP in the Assembly elections in four northern states in November last year though its leaders had earlier been claiming that it would not do so.

Now the VHP has pruned the 40-point agenda to 16-point agenda, which included the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, liberation of Kashi and Mathura temples, implementation of uniform civil code and a countrywide ban on cow slaughter. The VHP will soon launch a campaign in support of its 16-point Hindu agenda by distributing the copies of its agenda among the public.

The Parishad, in the coming months, will also seek the support of the chief ministers of states and members of Parliament to bring forward a bill in the Lok Sabha to facilitate the handover of the disputed site in Ayodhya to its trust to begin the construction of the Ram Temple from there. In fact it had made an attempt earlier to get the support of the MPs to get the bill passed in Parliament. But it could rope in only 160-odd MPs then. The present president of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the BJP, Mr. Vinay Katiyar, had some time back written to all MPs seeking their support for the bill but the response was poor. Now a revived campaign among the MPs will be launched before the budget session of Parliament which is expected to start from the last week of February. 

The VHP has called a meeting of the board of trustees and governing council in Hyderabad from January 15 to January 17. Incidentally, the VHP meeting is convened three days after the two-day national executive session of the BJP ends in the same city on January 12. The VHP sources have indicated that its meeting will formulate a strategy on the Ayodhya (and other issues) in tune with the decisions taken by the BJP national executive. Significantly the VHP has convened the meeting in the Andhra Pradesh capital. It apparently wants to give a message to the people of the state of the importance of Hindu agenda in the wake of the forthcoming Assembly elections there. 

The VHP and the RSS apparently want some progress in the temple movement before the Lok Sabha elections, which they hope, will help their political wing, the BJP, in the polls. The RSS leaders in late December met Jamait-I-ulema-e-Hind and some Muslim leaders to strike some kind of a settlement to the Ayodhya dispute. The VHP leaders had also got in touch with the leaders of the recently-floated Ayodhya Jama Masjid Trust, which had formulated a package to settle the dispute. Among the proposals of the Trust are the beginning of the construction of the Ram Temple from the Shilanyas site pending a verdict of the court in the title suits regarding the disputed site and the construction of a Masjid within the limits of Faizabad municipality. 

However, the VHP has not taken up the trust proposals seriously apparently because of the fact that it does not have the support of the main Muslim organisations. In fact, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board had already made it clear that no other organisation except itself had the right to negotiate a settlement on the Ayodhya dispute.
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