Monday, July 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Ayodhya: back to square one
Satish Misra and Gaurav Choudhury
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 6
The rejection of the proposals of Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham by the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) today at Lucknow marks not only the triumph of hardliners on both sides of the fence but also a challenge to the pan-Indian identity of the NDA.

While today’s decision of the AIMPLB was influenced by the July 1 letter of the Kanchi seer which contained a “veiled threat” to Muslims to give up Kashi and Mathura, the RSS’s July 5-6 meeting at Kanyakumari had queered the pitch for the Lucknow meeting.

The July 1 letter has cornered the moderate sections within the AIMPLB and allowed the hardliners to dictate terms, a Muslim leader in Lucknow told The Tribune on phone.

The VHP enjoying support of the RSS, had made it clear that it was not willing for any compromise and if the AIMPLB had accepted the Shankaracharya’s five-point proposal, it would have been widely seen as surrender to the majority community thus legitimising the RSS-VHP-BJP-Bajrang Dal’s claim to be the sole representative of the entire Hindu community.

Hardened stance of the two sides is also going to bring the NDA alliance under pressure as the allies like the Telugu Desam, the Samata Party, the Trinamool Congress, the Janata Dal (United) would have to reconsider their political positions as the Lok Sabha elections come closer.

Barring the Shiv Sena, the Akali Dal, the AIADMK and few regional parties, it would be very difficult for others to remain glued to the NDA, particularly when the RSS and the VHP would force the BJP to go to people for giving a decisive mandate for constructing a temple at Ayodhya through a parliamentary legislation.

So far the BJP is concerned, the first week of July, would force the party to take a clear stand as the AIMPLB’s statement at Lucknow has talked of the rule of law, constitutionalism, secularism and fair justice.

Between the Constitution and “faith”, the BJP would have to choose one. The political sustenance of the Ram Janambhoomi issue would come for intense debate in the BJP ahead of the General election.

Though the BJP had officially distanced itself from the negotiations initiated by the Shankaracharya, it is no secret that the Kanchi seer had the confidence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and few others in the government.

Political observers here say that the seer’s politico-religious ombudsman role in resolving the issue could be gauged from the fact that he was constantly interacting with religious and political leaders.

The rejection of the seer’s proposal will now allow the BJP to test the political waters, especially in the forthcoming Assembly elections, just ahead of the general election next year.

Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi are ruled by the Congress. However, reports indicate that there are no major undercurrents of anti-incumbency in these states. In this background, it is to be seen whether the BJP could use the Ayodhya card again to turn the tables on the Congress.

Observers are of the opinion that the rejection of the AIMPLB will now allow the BJP to conduct a field test in the states where the party does not really have an issue to nail the Congress. To top it, a good monsoon in northwest India and the proposed implementation of CAS may prove to be costly for the party.

Furthermore, the developments leading up to today’s meeting is indicative of the fact that a Central legislature on the issue — as has been persistently demanded by the VHP — could form a critical part of the party’s agenda in the general election.


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