Wednesday, December 13, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Govt relents on Ayodhya
Opposition gears up for censure motion
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 12 — Bowing to the unbudging stand of the Congress and other Opposition parties, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government finally agreed to discuss a censure motion against it on the controversial Ayodhya issue in the Lok Sabha tomorrow.

After riding a high horse all this while that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee should be allowed to make a suo motu clarification on the Ayodhya issue, the Union Government meekly climbed down several notches and lay itself bare to an Opposition onslaught.

The entire Opposition with the Congress, the Left combine and the Samajwadi Party responsible for bringing parliamentary work to a grinding halt for a week had a discernible spring in their stride after the all-party meeting, specially convened by Lok Sabha Speaker G.M. C. Balayogi here this afternoon.

As expected, the Opposition viewed the resumption of the Lok Sabha on their terms as a telling victory over their BJP rivals and its partners in the NDA.

The Congress, Left and other Opposition leaders successfully deflected a discussion flowing from the Prime Minister’s proposed suo motu statement. “In case the Leader of the House wants to make a statement, Mr Vajpayee has every right to intervene during the discussion under Rule 184, which entails voting in the Lok Sabha,” these MPs insisted.

A beaming Congress chief whip in the Lok Sabha Priya Ranjan Das- munshi told The Tribune that the “problem has been sorted out and the Lok Sabha will start discussion on the Ayodhya issue at 12.30 pm tomorrow.”

It was apparent that the Congress was gearing up to train its guns on the Prime Minister for retaining the three ministers — Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, Union Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Sports Minister Uma Bharti — in his government despite being chargesheeted in the Ayodhya case on grounds of morality and propriety.

This was what the Prime Minister’s trouble-shooters wanted to avoid. However, after seeing the belligerence in the Opposition ranks, BJP strategists decided it might be in the best interest of the Prime Minister that the resignation matter is out of the way in the Lok Sabha as the NDA enjoys majority in the Lower House.

After an uncharacteristic spell of silence, Mr Vajpayee firmly rejected the Congress demand that the three chargesheeted ministers should resign because the Ayodhya issue was a political matter and not a criminal case. Mr Vajpayee went further and asserted that construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya was in keeping with national sentiments though the task has remained unfinished.

The Prime Minister’s observation was primarily intended to deflect pressure from the Sangh Parivar that he had relegated to the background the BJP’s Hindutva agenda. Mr Vajpayee’s statements on the Ram Mandir and outright dismissal of the resignation demand stirred a hornet’s nest and provided the necessary lever to the Opposition to gain upper hand politically.

At the same time, the hawks in the BJP are unhappy with the turn of events that Mr Vajpayee’s gambit on Ayodhya aimed at perking up the party’s sagging image in Uttar Pradesh has taken a severe beating and needlessly brought Mr Advani’s continuance as a union minister into sharp focus. Mr Advani is considered Mr Vajpayee’s successor in his capacity as the second-most powerful leader in the BJP and the NDA.

The overbearing view of a strong section of opinion in the BJP is that it has willy nilly pushed itself to the wall by agreeing to a discussion under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha. By doing so the party has virtually acquiesced to a similar debate in the Rajya Sabha. There was bound to be a plethora of motions in the Upper House for a debate under the relevant rule which also entailed voting.

The deadlock on the nature of discussion in the Rajya Sabha continued at a meeting under the aegis of Vice-President and Chairman of the Upper House Krishan Kant.

Problems were bound to arise for the NDA, and the BJP in particular, if such a debate in the Rajya Sabha falls by the wayside even though it was not binding on the ruling coalition government. The NDA lacks majority in the Rajya Sabha.

In the event of the censure motion failing in the Lok Sabha and going through in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP could find itself in a tricky situation despite the averments from the highest quarter that people have reposed faith in Mr Advani, Mr Joshi and Ms Bharti by electing them to the Lok Sabha in the full glare of the Ayodhya case.


Panel summons RSS chief, Basu
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 12—The RSS chief, Mr K.S. Sudarshan, who had surprised many by stating that the disputed structure was brought down by a bomb on December 6, 1992, was today issued summons by the Justice M.S. Liberhan Commission, probing the sequence of events leading to the demolition of the structure at Ayodhya. He has been asked to appear before it on December 20.

The Commission, right at the beginning of the proceedings today, said Mr Sudarshan and others had made statements on the manner in which the disputed structure was demolished and they should be examined as witnesses.

The probe panel also issued summons to the former West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr Jyoti Basu, to appear before it as a witness on January 29.Mr Basu had recently remarked that he had passed on to the then Prime Minister, Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, audio-tapes containing the speech of a former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Kalyan Singh, at a meeting of the Sadhu Samaj in Calcutta.

The Commission also summoned leading Gandhian and former Rajya Sabha MP, Ms Nirmala Deshpande, to appear on January 30, for her reported views in an interview. She had stated that top BJP leaders were “clueless” about the conspiracy to demolish the structure which was “premeditated and meticulously planned.”

The Union Sports Minister, Ms Uma Bharti, who was to appear before the commission today, expressed her inability to attend the proceedings in view of her pre-occupation in Parliament.

The Commission asked her to appear on December 19, while rescheduling the appearances of the Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, to January 22-23 and the Human Resource Development Minister, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, to January 15 and 16, in view of their fixed schedule. Mr Narasimha Rao will appear before it on December 26 and 27.

Addressing a RSS rally in Thiruvananthapuram last week, Mr Sudarshan had claimed that the demolition was caused by an explosion from within the structure about which inner circles of the then Union Cabinet were aware.

The RSS chief claimed that he had come across a fax message sent by a senior Congress leader from Maharashtra on December 10 to the then Prime Minister, holding that the demolition of the mosque was not the handiwork of kar sevaks who had assembled at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, but was due to an explosion about which the “kitchen Cabinet” of the then government was aware.

Prefacing his claim with the words that “I have to tell you a secret”, Mr Sudarshan said, "Many people had worked behind the conspiracy, details of which are coming out one by one.”

The mosque was not pulled down by the kar sevaks, including Shiv Sena, VHP and Bajrang Dal volunteers who had assembled at Ayodhya. They could only peel off the plasters of the structure. Leaders like Mr Advani and Mr Joshi were pacifying the kar sevaks while the structure came down due to the explosion. The whole event was not a mere accident but the result of a political conspiracy, he alleged. 


Cong issues whip on today’s motion
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 12 — The Congress today said that the impasse in Parliament had ended today with Speaker accepting its demand to hold discussion in the Lok Sabha under Section 184. The party has also issued a whip to its members to be present in the House tomorrow. Briefing mediapersons, a senior Congress leader, Mrs Margaret Alva and the party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said that the text of the motions to be taken up for discussion would be decided during a meeting at 10 am tomorrow. The party will move a separate motion in the Rajya Sabha which is unlikely to entail voting.

Mrs Alva said that as per the agreement arrived at an all-party today, the discussion would commence at 12.30 pm tomorrow and conclude the same day. Only the Prime Minister’s reply has been scheduled for Thursday.

While the motion in the Lok Sabha would be linked to the resignation of three ministers, the motion for the Rajya Sabha would be worded differently as “the ministers accountability lies to the Lok Sabha.”

Mr Dasmunshi said that 53 notices, 45 of them by the Congress, had been given to the Speaker. The other eight notices have been moved by the CPM, Samajwadi Party, Muslim League, AIADMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party. He said that while some motions were over the propriety of the three chargesheeted union ministers continuing in the office, a few sought an explanation from the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee over his remarks on the Ayodhya issue.

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