Wednesday, December 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

NDA suffers first defeat
Vajpayee asserts authority

NEW DELHI, Dec 19 — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee lost an embarrassing censure motion in the Rajya Sabha today but displayed his authority by asserting that it was his prerogative to choose his Council of Ministers and would not be dictated by anyone on this issue.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government lost the Congress-sponsored nine-party motion on Ayodhya by a margin of 121 votes to 86, with two members abstaining.

The result was a foregone conclusion with the Opposition having greater numbers in the Rajya Sabha than the alliance partners. But it gave an opportunity to the Prime Minister to explain his viewpoint on the issue and also launch an attack on the Opposition for not only trying to politicise the issue but also trying to create a division in the BJP-led alliance at the Centre.

The Prime Minister was unsparing in his reply to the two-day discussion and pointed directly at former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao for deliberately creating situations which delayed the court verdict which would have decided the issue. He categorically stated that if the Congress wanted it could have worked out a solution.

While saying that he did not want to go into the details of the sequence of events, of which he was fully aware, the Prime Minister warned that any communalisation of the issue would only create fresh tensions.

He referred to the visit of the then Home Minister S.B. Chavan to the shilanyas site saying that on reaching the site he had asked where the mosque was. Mr Chavan who was present in the House, however refuted this by saying that after visiting the Ram Mandir, he wanted to go to the mosque site.

“Let Ayodhya not divide us,” he said assuring the Opposition that the government would abide fully by the verdict of the Supreme Court on the issue if the political parties so desired.

In his address, which was far more impressive than that in the Lok Sabha last week, the Prime Minister asserted that Ayodhya was a “movement” and appealed to Opposition parties not to politicise the issue for electoral gains as it would only divide the country.

Mr Vajpayee made it clear that NDA government was committed to the national agenda of governance which had kept out such contentious issues and rejected once again the demand for the resignation of three charge-sheeted ministers in the Ayodhya demolition case. 

On the demand for the resignation of three ministers, L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati, Mr Vajpayee said if anybody was implicated in a court case, he should resign but in the case of Ayodhya there is a “difference”.

“Ayodhya is a movement. A movement which is being sought to be opposed by you (Opposition),” he said amidst shouts of shame shame from the Opposition.

Ayodhya case should be differentiated, Mr Vajpayee said adding he was willing to sit with the Opposition to evolve parameters for ministers to resign on the question of propriety. He said there were no charges of corruption or misuse of position against them and they were suspected of activities during the Ayodhya agitation.

“Parameters should be uniform,” he said adding there could not be one set of rules for the three central ministers and another for Bihar, referring to the RJD leader Laloo Prasad Yadav.

Denying that he had ever made a statement that the Ram temple be constructed at the disputed site at Ayodhya, Mr Vajpayee said he had also never supported the demolition of Babri Masjid.

“Neither when the structure was demolished on December 6, 1992, nor any time afterwards did I ever favour the demolition, he said adding “I have always criticised the incident (demolition).”

Reiterating there were only two possible solutions to the issue, Mr Vajpayee renewed his appeal to the Hindus and the Muslims to come for a dialogue to find a solution to this contentious issue.

“I am ready for a dialogue on the issue without any pre-conditions,” he said.

Mr Vajpayee said ever since 1992, he had refrained from referring to the Ayodhya issue but, “if newsmen ask me questions, should I not reply,” he said, clarifying he had not made any statement on the Ayodhya issue.

Persisting on the role of the Congress in the Ayodhya issue, Mr Vajpayee asked was it not the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who began his election campaign from Ayodhya. “Probably he had some affinity for Ram in his heart.”

Ram was in the heart of every India, he said citing what Urdu poet-laureate Mohammed Iqbal had written about Lord Rama. Ram was an ideal to him, Iqbal had said in his verse, the Prime Minister said.

Mr Vajpayee said it was regrettable that the agitation on Ayodhya which started as a movement, took an ugly communal turn after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

He warned the Opposition that their moves to split the coalition government was fraught with danger as it would hit the evolution of coalition era in the country. “Tomorrow you could be at the receiving end. It is a double-edged weapon.”

The Prime Minister said he had not given a clean chit to the three ministers. “We have left it to the courts to decide. But by moves in the House it is the Opposition which is prejudging the issue,” he added.

Mr Vajpayee also had a brush with the Samajwadi party when he accused the party of vying with the Congress to exploit the Ayodhya dispute for getting electoral mileage. The Prime Minister said the government was ready to talk to anyone, including Pakistan, to bring peace in Jammu and Kashmir and would take a decision soon on extension of the ceasefire.

“We are ready to talk to anyone for solving the Kashmir tangle, including with our neighbour, provided the situation improves”, he said.


Uma deposes before Liberhan

NEW DELHI, Dec 19 (UNI) — Ms Uma Bharati, one of the three Union Ministers, charge-sheeted in the Babri Masjid demolition case, told the Liberhan Commission today that she tried to prevent the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6,1992 but was pushed away by the ‘kar sevaks’.

Continuing her deposition before the commission, the Union Sports Minister said in response to her appeal, which she made while standing at a wall at the rear side of the structure, one or two persons came down but they did not recognise her and asked as to who she was. “When I told them I was Uma Bharati they said, “Kahan ki Uma Bharati, kaun Uma Bharati, Bharati, bhad me jao.”

She said she was asked by the then BJP president L.K. Advani to go near the disputed structure after repeated appeals from the Ram Katha Manch by Mr Advani, Mr M.M. Joshi and VHP leader Ashok Singhal were not heard by those who had climbed atop the structure.

When she told the angry boys that she had been sent by these leaders they said they had nothing to do with them. After this conversation the crowd became very agitated. “The crowd picked me up and brought me down from the wall and formed a ring around me and took me almost half a kilometre away from the place, saying “chaliye chaliye” and they told me not to come again,” Ms Bharati said.

After that she walked down to the “manch” and apprised Mr Advani of the entire situation and told him to send somebody else. “Thereafter I moved towards the rear of the manch and sat there.”

“In the evening when the entire structure came down, the state police officer in charge of my security took me to Janaki Trust Mahal building where I was staying,” Ms Bharati added.

When counsel of the commission Anupam Gupta asked her whether she addressed the crowd any time except briefly in the morning, she said, “When I appealed them to come down there was so much noise that I felt they won’t listen. Then I recited Hanuman Chalisa so that they could calm down and listen to us. Except that I did not make any speech.”


Exercise restraint, PM tells allies
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 19 — Virtually upset over the allies’ repeated barbs against him and his party on the Ayodhya issue, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today asked the National Democratic Alliance partners to exercise restraint while expressing their views on the issue.

Addressing the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting here, the Prime Minister said even though the allies might have their own “regional interests” to pursue but they should also bear in mind “national interests” which were of utmost importance, the party spokesman, Prof Vijay Kumar Malhotra told newspersons.

Mr Vajpayee’s remarks over his allies attacks were a significant pointer to the emerging political scenario, the sources said adding that the process of political realignment had begun.

With the Vishwa Hindu Parishad slated to announce the exact date for the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya on Mahakumbh in Allahabad next month, Mr Vajpayee’s assurances in Parliament and elsewhere are being seen with suspicion by the allies particularly the Trinamool Congress and the Telugu Desam Party.

While a conscious effort was being made to undertake a damage control exercise, the allies were also trying to evolve a common strategy to face the development related with the VHP and other Sangh Parivar members.

A senior minister in the Vajpayee government said till the allies were indulging in verbal attacks, “We are not bothered”.

But the government was closely monitoring the developments in the camps of Trinamool Congress and the TDP and keeping fingers crossed, the sources said.

When asked about the effort of some of the allies to form a pressure group within the NDA, Prof Malhotra said that “he was not aware of any such development”.

Prof Malhotra said the Prime Minister had thanked the allies for supporting the government on the Opposition motion in the Lok Sabha and appreciated the fact that they did not “fall into the trap of the Congress” and this had strengthened the NDA.


Naidu accuses all parties on Ayodhya

HYDERABAD, Dec 19 (PTI) — The TDP president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu today blamed all parties, including the BJP, for “harping on the Ayodhya issue in an irresponsible manner” at a time when the country was beset with a plethora of problems.

“After having agreed to abide by Supreme Court’s verdict on the temple issue, all parties are now raking up this issue to score political points,” Mr Naidu told mediapersons here.

Mr Naidu’s strident attack came when it was pointed out to him that he was only targeting the Congress while sparing the Centre on the Ayodhya issue.

“I am attacking the Centre and the Opposition as both are responsible for diverting the attention from real issues. We (TDP) were not given proper opportunity to raise farmers’ issue in Parliament”, the Chief Minister said.

Mr Naidu, who called the press conference to brief about his government’s stand-off with the Centre on issue of enhancing foodgrains procurement, was initially reluctant to talk about politics and in a lighter vein even chided the media for being obsessed with it.

But soon, he gave vent to his “anguish” saying it was “despicable” on part of political parties to be engaged in the “mandir-masjid” debate when the issue is before the Apex court.

Coming down heavily on the Congress, Mr Naidu reminded that the Congress was in power when “shilanyas” was permitted at Ayodhya and it was a silent spectator to the demolition of Babri mosque.

Asserting that the TDP was committed to secularism, he said his party’s outside support to the NDA Government was based on national agenda for governance and there was no question of tolerating any deviation from secular agenda.

“Secularism is our greatest strength and people will not spare political parties if there is any deviation,” he said.Back

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