04 August 2003

Atal's temple talk: Flip-flop big flop

4 August 2003
The Times of India

Atal's temple talk Flip-flop big flop


NEW DELHI: Ever since the BJP formally took up the Ram temple issue at its Palampur convention in 1989, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has tended to speak in two voices. At virtually every stage — but especially after the demolition of the Babri masjid on December 6, 1992 — each aggressive declaration of intent has been followed by a prompt clarification or denial.

There have been so many statements and clarifications that it is impossible to tell the flips from the flops.

Flip (April 1991): Vajpayee the Opposition leader tells VHP rally construction of a temple at Ram Janmabhoomi is necessary because ‘‘national honour’’ has to be restored. Flop: A day after the Babri mosque was demolished, Vajpayee says it was the ‘‘saddest day of my life’’.

Flip (May 1996): ‘‘If problems related with religion are not resolved for long period of time, the result is what happened in Ayodhya’’, Vajpayee says in televised speech. Flop (December 1997): ‘‘Ayodhya will not be a major issue (for BJP) as it was in the the previous election’’, Vajpayee says in Bhubaneswar.

Flip (February 1998): Vajpayee lists ‘‘construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya’’ in BJP election manifesto. Flop (June 1998): After controversy erupts over construction activity in Ayodhya, PM writes to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, ‘‘The judiciary will be unfettered in discharging its duty in the Ayodhya matter’’. ‘‘Demolition of Babri masjid was a mishap and mishaps don’t get repeated’’, he tell Lok Sabha.

Flip (August 21, 1999): Vajpayee tells election rally at Thiruvananthapuram Ayodhya issue remains intrinsic part of BJP manifesto. Flop (August 27, 1999): ‘‘Ayodhya will not be taken up by my government even if BJP gets absolute majority... We will take care of VHP’’, Vajpayee tells reporters in Lucknow.

Flip (September 10, 1999): Vajpayee tells sadhus in New York demanding a Ram mandir at Ayodhya that should BJP get two-thirds majority, it would endeavour to ‘‘fulfill India’s dreams’’. Flop (September 11, 1999): Vajpayee clarifies that reference to ‘‘dreams’’ not to Ayodhya, says temple not on NDA agenda.

Flip (December 6/7, 2000): PM shocks nation by saying Ayodhya agenda still incomplete, describes Ramjanmabhoomi movement as ‘‘expression of national sentiment... still to be realised’’. He also tells reporters temple could be built at disputed site and the mosque built elsewhere in Ayodhya. Flop (December 10/19, 2000): Under pressure from opposition and allies, PM backtracks, gets National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to issue resolution saying status quo must be maintained at disputed site till SC delivers verdict. Tells Parliament, ‘‘I never asked for building a Ram temple at the site of the demolished mosque’’.

Flip (December 31, 2000): In Kumarakom musings, Vajpayee ‘clarifies’ reference to Ram temple and national sentiment was in ‘‘past tense’’. ‘‘We cannot forever remain shackled to debate on demolitions, either of the distant or recent past. India must move on’’. Flop (August 1, 2003): At Ramchandra Paramhans funeral in Ayodhya, PM says all obstacles in the way of temple would be removed, urges opponents to ‘‘come to their senses’’.

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