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Ayodhya dispute: BJP's hopes on
Kanchi seer, Congress embarrassed

Shahid K Abbas in New Delhi | June 10, 2003 16:52 IST

Notwithstanding the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's rejection of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's suggestion for a negotiated settlement to the temple issue, the Bharatiya Janata Party is optimistic that Kanchi shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati would successfully prevail upon the VHP leadership.

BJP sources on Monday expressed confidence that Vajpayee's initiative would yield results this time as he had succeeded in seeking an assurance of sorts from the Kanchi seer that he would persuade the VHP to shed much of its hardline approach to the Ayodhya issue.

On his part the prime minister would request the court to dispose the title suit at the earliest.

Making this revelation the BJP source pointed out that it was in this context that the Kanchi seer has been claiming that the Muslim claimants were ready to hand over the site of the Babri masjid for constructing a Ram temple.

"The Muslims have agreed to abide by the court verdict. If the shankaracharya succeeds in convincing the VHP leadership to follow suit then the problem is automatically solved," the sources observed optimistically.

The VHP, however, came out with a statement on Monday that the only way to resolve the tangle was by enactment of a law by Parliament for the construction of a temple.

"At this juncture, this seems to be the only plausible solution," VHP international president Ashok Singhal said.

The Muslims, however, are no longer enamoured of the shankaracharya.

On Monday, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board had denied that any Muslim leader was talking to the Kanshi seer on the Ayodhya issue or that anyone was willing to hand over the site of the Babri masjid for constructing a Ram temple.

The AIMPLB also ruled out further talks with the shankaracharya asserting that he could no longer be considered a mediator.

AIMPLB secretary Maulana Abdul Raheem Qureshi pointed out that the shankaracharya's latest stand was in sharp contrast to the one he had adopted a year ago.

"At that time, he (shankaracharya) had told us that the court verdict must be accepted by both parties and the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas will give him an undertaking that if the court verdict favours the Muslims, they will not create any problems in the way of reconstruction of the mosque," Qureshi said.

The AIMPLB have now ruled out a negotiated settlement and insist only the court can resolve the dispute.

Meanwhile, the Kanchi seer put the Congress in a dilemma by crediting its leader and former prime minister Narasimha Rao for installation of the Lord Ram idol in the makeshift temple at the disputed site.

Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Narasimha Rao were among the dignitaries present at the function when the seer made this statement.

The seer also commended the Rajiv Gandhi government's decision to unlock the doors to the makeshift temple.

To compound matters, Gandhi did not respond to these comments in her speech.

On Monday, a day after the Kanchi seer made his remarks, Congress spokesman Anand Sharma was inundated with questions about the event.

"We are not going to make any comment on the observations made by the shankaracharya, but sharing a platform doesn't mean similarity of perception," he told reporters.

Asked about Gandhi's silence on the seer's comments, Sharma said, "The Congress president's views have to be seen as reflected in her speech.

He dismissed as 'absurd' charges that Gandhi sharing the platform with a Hindu religious leader and her subsequent silence on his views about the two former Congress prime ministers was indicative of the party's newfound philosophy of 'soft Hindutva'.

"The occasion did not warrant a debate on the contentious Ayodhya issue and the Congress president's speech was dedicated to the great ethos of the country," Sharma insisted.

In a significant development, the party also changed its stand from seeking a negotiated settlement to the Ayodhya dispute to preferring a decision by the court.

The Ayodhya Issue: The Complete Coverage

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