Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Vishnu Hari Dalmiya has asserted that his organisation is not bothered whether if the Bharatiya Janata Party did not join it in the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
"We are not bothered if the BJP does not join us in the construction of the temple by March 12. We will struggle against all odds to construct the temple by then," Dalmiya told rediff.com.
When pointed out that BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had given assurances that the party would abide by the court verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, Dalmiya said, "Who bothers about such things. We will go ahead with the construction of the temple in any case."
He asserted that the VHP had given sufficient time to the government to pave the way for the construction of the temple and that 'all hurdles and obstacles' in its way had to be removed.
However, the BJP maintained that the temple construction was not an election issue for it.
"The construction of Ram mandir is not an election issue for the BJP," pointed out party spokeswoman Maya Singh, although Uttar Pradesh party chief Kalraj Mishra had recently claimed that it was so far as the local unit was concerned.
The BJP's apparent doublespeak came when Prime Minister Vajpayee recently reiterated that the party would act in accordance with the court verdict on the dispute.
The statement was for the benefit of the National Democratic Alliance constituents like the Telugu Desam Party and the Trinamul Congress, which had expressed their objection to any change in the status quo in Ayodhya.
The party leadership has realised that if it gives its assent to the hardliners in the Sangh Parivar to go ahead and construct the temple, the secular elements in the NDA would be antagonised.
But if it fully endorsed the stand against the construction of the temple, its Hindu votebank would not forgive it. Thus in order to pursue a middle path, it is deliberately obfuscating the issue, encouraging both the antagonists and protagonists of the temple.
"We have already said that since the construction of the (Ram) temple in Ayodhya is not on the NDA agenda, we have stayed away from it," pointed out senior BJP leader Jagdish Prasad Mathur.
"Why do you people make a song and dance about it?" he asked.
But he could not give a satisfactory answer why a senior party leader like Kalraj Mishra kept insisting that the temple would be constructed. He merely pointed out that 'it is Kalraj Mishra's personal opinion'.
With recent polls by media organisations making the Samjawadi Party the favourite in the electoral race in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP leadership seems to be testing the mindset of the majority community in the state.
This is why it has adopted a 'middle course' on the issue of the temple construction.
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