Sunday, December 10, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Govt ready to discuss issue under Rule 184
PM tries to defuse controversy

Tribune News Service
and agencies

NEW DELHI, Dec 9 — In parallel yet well-coordinated moves, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today made an effort to defuse the Ayodhya controversy, saying the Government was prepared for a discussion in Parliament even under Rule 184.

While the Prime Minister, talking to mediaspersons at a lunch hosted by BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra, expressed his government’s readiness to accept the Opposition’s demand, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shahnawaz Hussain said at a specially convened media conference that Mr Vajpayee had assured him the government was committed to the NDA’s agenda which clearly stated respect for the Supreme Court’s verdict on the temple issue in Ayodhya.

Parrying questions on the controversy raised over his statements on Wednesday and Thursday, the Prime Minister said he would speak now in Parliament on the issue.

“Now, they (Opposition) complain I am talking outside Parliament. I have decided not to speak outside Parliament. Whatever I have to say, I will do so in Parliament”, the Prime Minister said in an informal chat with mediapersons.

Asked under what rule the government was prepared for a discussion on the issue, Mr Vajpayee said: “The rule under which the discussion is to take place is not decided beforehand or by the government. It is up to the Speaker to decide under which rule it is to be discussed”.

Coming down heavily on the Opposition for stalling Parliamentary proceedings for the past five days over the demand for resignation of Home Minister L.K. Advani, Human Resource Development Minister M.M. Joshi and Youth and Sports Affairs Minister Uma Bharati, who have been charge-sheeted in connection with the demolition of the disputed Babri mosque structure on December 6, 1992, the Prime Minister said he could have understood if the proceedings had been stalled for a day or two, but was unable to comprehend the motive of the Opposition for continuing to disrupt work for the whole week.

It was clear that the demand of the Opposition was motivated as it had been raised just two days before December 6, Mr Vajpayee said, adding that he had been impelled to make a statement outside Parliament when mediapersons insisted on the same and because the proceedings of the two Houses had been stalled. “It does not help in strengthening democracy”, he stressed.

Asked whether the NDA partners had demanded a meeting of the Coordination Committee, Mr Vajpayee said: “I have found out that they have not done so. In fact, we are interested in holding a meeting of the committee. As to when it has to be held, has to be decided by the convener”.

He declined to comment on the reported remark of the RSS supremo, Mr K.S. Sudarshan, saying the Babri Masjid had been pulled down by a blast on December 6, 1992.

In Hyderabad, after a two-hour meeting of the TDP Parliamentary Party presided over by party President and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu this morning, TDPP leader K. Yerran Naidu said Mr Vajpayee’s remarks that the temple could be built at the disputed site in Ayodhya were causing confusion.

“We ‘re-emphasise’ that when there is a deviation from the NDA agenda, it will be viewed very seriously,” he added.

Saying that any action or policy which would prove detrimental to the interests of the state would be “opposed”, leaders of the TDP, which is extending outside support to the Vajpayee government at the Centre and has 29 members in the Lok Sabha, said the party was committed to secularism and had extended support to the NDA government after all contentious issues like the common civil code, Ram Temple and article 370 were dropped from the common agenda.

In Chennai, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi flayed the Congress for shedding crocodile tears over the demolition now and stated that the NDA’s agenda for governance was committed to secularism even though there were parties holding different views.


Allies warn of serious fallout
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 9 — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s assertion that construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is in keeping with national sentiments has created a major stir in the ranks of three important constituents of the National Democratic Alliance government.

A major problem has arisen for Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu’s Telegu Desam party (TDP).

With Assembly elections round the corner in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the bewilderment of Ms Banerjee, who is eyeing the Chief Minister’s chair in Calcutta, and Mr Karunanidhi fighting to retain power at Fort St George in Chennai is only natural.

The Trinamool Congress and the DMK direly need the patronage of minorities and weaker sections. A highly circumspect Ms Banerjee and Mr Karunanidhi realise they might be pushed into oblivion at the hustings if they continue to associate themselves with the BJP-led NDA, which seemingly wants to rekindle the Hindutva agenda.

Worried about the disastrous consequences staring them in the face in such an eventuality, the TDP, Trinamool Congress and the DMK have warned the NDA of “serious implications” if Mr Vajpayee is consciously and deliberately unmasking BJP’s hidden agenda by bidding adieu to the mutually agreed National Agenda of Governance (NAG).

The Prime Minister’s clarification at Iftar get togethers over the past 48 hours has further queered the pitch and caused greater confusion. High strung BJP strategists, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claim that Mr Vajpayee’s calculated gambit of focusing on the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has provided the much-needed shot in the arm to the dormant and unenthusiastic activists of the saffron brigade.

At the same time, at least three constituents of the NDA are convinced that the Prime Minister’s liberal image has taken a severe beating and its adverse impact is bound to be felt in the assembly elections.

The TDP, which virtually holds the whip in hand in keeping the Vajpayee government afloat with 29 members in the Lok Sabha, including Speaker G M C Balayogi, has demanded that Mr Vajpayee must clarify his position before Monday. The TDP, which is the second largest entity after the BJP in the Lok Sabha, is extending support to the disparate NDA government from outside.

Considering the unease in the TDP, the Trinamool Congress and the DMK, Mr Vajpayee has sought breathing space on the ground that he will clarify matters on his controversial statement in Parliament on Monday. Simultaneously, he has activated some of his ministerial colleagues to allay misgivings in the minds of certain constituents of the NDA.

The TDP has consistently exploited its win, win situation by repeatedly securing its pound of flesh from the Centre. It has again assumed an offensive mode so that the Centre cursorily coughs up direly needed relief for the farmers in Andhra Pradesh.

The argument of TDP’s Parliamentary Party Leader Yerran Naidu is that if the Vajpayee government can render assistance to Punjab and Haryana, why should Andhra Pradesh be treated on a different footing. The Centre has no option but to surrender to the diktats of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister who controls the Vajpayee government’s critical oxygen valve.

Mr Karunanidhi has emphasised that the Prime Minister cannot thrust a different point of view against the consensus among the constituents of the NDA on common issues. The NDA’s agenda for governance is committed to secularism and sharing the hopes and anxieties of the people. “The Ayodhya issue, uniform civil code and deletion of Article 370 of the Constitution had no place in the NDA’s agenda,” Mr Karunanidhi observed.

The fragility of the NDA government apart, Mr Vajpayee cannot afford to brush aside the concerns of Ms Banerjee, Mr Karunanidhi and Mr Naidu but find some convincing way of ensuring status-quo-ante.


Shahnawaz meets PM
Blames Cong for  demolition

NEW DELHI, Dec 9 (UNI) — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today told Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shahnawaz Hussain, who met him this morning to express the feelings of the Muslim community over the Prime Minister’s reported remarks on Ram Mandir, that he had no intention to ‘force any decision’ on the Ayodhya issue.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr Hussain blamed the Congress for the Ayodhya crisis and said it had been the “hidden agenda” of the party ever since 1947 to demolish the mosque.

The minister, who was heckled outside a mosque yesterday after the Friday prayers for remaining silent over the Prime Minister’s remarks on Ayodhya, alleged it was Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao who was entrusted with the job to bring down the Babri Masjid.

Explaining the ‘hidden agenda’, he said it was Jawaharlal Nehru who installed the idols inside the disputed structure and Rajiv Gandhi who unlocked the doors and laid the “shilanyas” of the temple, besides starting his party’s election campaign from Ayodhya to garner support of the majority community.

Several ministers of the Narasimha Rao government, who did not even protest at that time, were now part of the coterie of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.Back


It’s ridiculous, says Cong
Imam asks allies to pull out

Tribune News Service
& agencies

NEW DELHI, Dec 9 — The Congress said today it would continue to press its demand in Parliament for resignation of three Union Ministers charge-sheeted in the demolition case.

“The main issue is resignation of the three ministers — L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi and Uma Bharati. We will continue to demand for their resignation and a discussion under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha and Rule 170 in the Rajya Sabha”, party spokesmen Anil Shastri and Anand Sharma said.

Mr Shastri said “unless our demands on the issue are not conceded, we are not going to allow Parliament to run business”.

Describing the statement of RSS chief K.Sudarshan that a dynamite had caused the demolition of the masjid at Ayodhya as totally false and ridiculous, Mr Shastri said Mr Sudarshan was trying to divert the main issue of resignation by raking these issues after eight years.

Detailing the development of events before the demolition of the masjid on December 6 and the aftermath, Mr Sharma said the claim of the RSS chief was contrary to the findings of the court which had charge-sheeted several persons, including the three Union Ministers.

Therefore, the whole responsibility of the demolition rests with the VHP and the RSS,” Mr Sharma said, adding Mr Sudarshan and BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, were raising other issues to avoid a discussion in Parliament on resignation of the three ministers.

The Imam of Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari, today asked the NDA partners to withdraw support to the Vajpayee government following the Prime Minister’s statement on the Ayodhya issue.

“I appeal to the allies including the Telugu Desam, the Samata Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Trinamool Congress, to immediately quit the alliance,” he said.

Asserting that the Muslims had always maintained that they would abide by the court decision on the issue, the Imam wondered why the Prime Minister had to make the statement at this juncture.

“Vajpayee’s statement exposes the secret agenda the BJP is pursuing at the instance of the RSS and the VHP where they want to ensure an upperhand for the Hindus and reduce the Muslims as second-rate citizens,” he said.

Former MP and Congress leader Muhammad Afzal said: “Muslim intellectuals met here under the chairmanship of the Imam and unanimously resolved to stay away from any Iftar party hosted by the Prime Minister, his ministers and such official function in states where the BJP is in the power”.

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