Wednesday, February 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


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Ayodhya debate on Feb 26
Division among NDA allies; Cong for status quo
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 18
The Lok Sabha will take up for discussion on February 26 the controversial move of the Central Government to approach the Supreme Court to hand over the “undisputed” land to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya.

While the combined Opposition will press for a discussion under Rule 184 (with voting provision), indications are that the Speaker will permit a special discussion under a non-voting provision, according to sources. The issue came up for discussion during today’s meeting of the Business Advisory Committee.

The move to have a special discussion without voting is being preferred by the National Democratic Alliance government because there is a sharp division among various allies regarding the government’s approach on the Ayodhya issue.

The Telugu Desam Party, the Janata Dal (United) and even a small section of the Samata Party have expressed their serious reservations on the government moving the Supreme Court.

A discussion on the issue under Rule 184 will bring these divisions into the open and might cause the NDA government serious embarrassment.

The government move to approach the apex court has come under a sharp attack from Opposition parties. The CPM and the Samajwadi Party were keen on moving an adjournment motion on the issue while a section of the Congress wanted the discussion to take place after the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections.

Leader of Janata Dal (U) Devendra Prasad Yadav criticised the BJP-led government for rushing to the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya issue without consulting the allies. Mr Yadav was making a statement in the Lok Sabha today.

Earlier in the day, Speaker Manohar Joshi disallowed 20 notices given by Opposition leaders seeking suspension of question hour to discuss the Ayodhya issue on priority.

An angry Opposition in the Lok Sabha today demanded the suspension of question hour to discuss the contentious matter, even as Speaker Manohar Joshi ruled that the members should wait for a decision to be taken by the Business Advisory Council (BAC) on scheduling the issue for discussion.

Amid angry exchange of words between the treasury and Opposition benches, the Speaker disallowed 20 notices moved by the Opposition members, calling for suspension of question hour.

The demand for a discussion on the matter was raised by Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and later carried forward by Mr Somnath Chaterjee (CPI-M) and Mr Shivraj Patil (Cong) who observed that the House needed to take a fresh look at the issue in the wake of the petition to the Supreme Court moved by the Centre for vacating the stay on the undisputed land at Ayodhya.

Mr Yadav said at a time of serious problems, such as drought and terrorist attacks, the government was seeking to divert the attention of the people by raising the issue of Ayodhya.

Mr Yadav said the decision of the government to approach the apex court seeking a vacation on the stay order was in clear violation of 1994 Supreme Court ruling which held that till the time the Ayodhya issue was resolved, the undisputed land could be handed over to any party.

The CPI (M) leader, Mr Somnath Chaterjee, termed the move of the government as “diabolical” which could create communal tension and religious division in the country and said that the Opposition was not taken into confidence while moving the petition.

Mr Chaterjee described as “conspiracy” the move of the Centre to hand over the acquired land to the VHP just before the ‘Dharam Sansad on February 22.

“Patriotism is not their (BJP’s) monopoly. They are trying to divide the country and we are trying to keep it united”, he said.

Congress leader and former Speaker Shivraj Patil said the move was indicative of the fact that the government was falling prey to diktats of “divisive forces of the country”.

“There was no other important issue which divides the country”, he said.

BJP Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha, V.K. Malhotra said the government’s move was clearly in line with the discussions that took place at the all-party meeting convened by the Prime Minister in March last year, even as he said that the government was willing to discuss the matter.

Seeking the cooperation of all members Lok Sabha Speaker Mr Manohar Joshi said that it was for the Business Advisory Council to finalise the schedule of discussion on various issues.

The Congress meanwhile, today rebutted the BJP’s charge that it was opposed to the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and reiterated that it had been consistently of the view that the status quo be maintained until the disposal of the title suit by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.


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