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Talking on the lord - Mid-day

T V R Shenoy ()
June 20, 1998

Title: Talking on the lord
Author: T V R Shenoy
Publication: Mid-day
Date: June 20, 1998

I can fight you," Narasimha Rao proclaimed in his last major
speech in Parliament, "but I cannot fight Lord Rama." Rajesh
Pilot, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, and Mulayam Singh Yadav are
perfectly willing and capable of taking on both the Lord and the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Pilot, speaking on behalf of the Congress, solemnly accused the
Vajpayee government of standing by even as work on 1,000 pillars
was almost complete. This is completely bogus as any student of
Indian culture would know without even needing to visit Ayodhya.

Temples are built according to rules prescribed m ancient
shastras. A 1,000-pillared temple simply doesn't exist in the
North Indian textbook. (Of course, in the South there have been
cases of thousand-pillar mandapas.)

And the proposed temple, as various pictures and three-
dimensional models demonstrate, is well and truly in the time-
honoured nagari style of North India.

For Pilot's benefit, there will be only 212 pillars as and when
the temple is built. And only 36 of these are ready right now,
with 32 more in various stages of completion. So much for Pilot's
shrill charges!

But why was Pilot raising such wild charges just now? Even
granted that he knows nothing of Indian tradition, shouldn't he
at least know the history of the temple?

Congressmen may forget it rather conveniently, but December 6,
1992 was merely a milepost along the way, not the beginning of
the road.

The shilanyas ceremony was performed in 1989. For the benefit of
Congressmen suffering from amnesia, the prime minister at the
time was Rajiv Gandhi and the Uttar Pradesh's chief minister too
was a Congressman.

Work on the prefabricated pillars began m Rajasthan in 1990. As
the Left Front, the Janata Dal, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the
rest of the rag-tag bunch may recall, the prime minister of the
time was V P Singh.

(The Union home minister was Mufti Mohammed Sayeed - the man who
set free terrorists to save his daughter's skin.)

Given all this, aren't the Opposition parsing waking up very late
in the day? Or does Ayodhya become an issue simply because they
have nothing else to complain about?

Frankly, it seems clear that raising the issue was malice pure
and simple. Do you seek proof of that assertion? Well, consider
this: when the same questions were asked of the United Front, no
Congressman or Communist saw fit to exercise his or her lungs
quite as much!

Mere months ago, Indrajit Gupta, speaking as the Union home
minister, told Parliament that whatever little work was going on
could not be stopped as it didn't violate any laws.

He added that the Government of India wouldn't permit
construction on the actual site as long as the matter was before
the courts.

That is precisely what his successor in the home ministry, L K
Advani told the Lok Sabha. But the Opposition found a new ground
to attack the BJP. Your assurances are meaningless, they said,
you also gave similar assurances before December 6, 1992.

Is it just my imagination or is the level of public debate really
falling? Sonia Gandhi called Atal Behari Vajpayee a "liar" at a
public meeting, but she was foreign both to Indian culture and to
parliamentary practice.

But there is no excuse for the heavyweights on the Opposition
benches. Do they really know what kind of a precedent they are
setting when they try to shout down ministers, loudly accusing
them of bad faith?

Actually, the mess seemed to have more to do with the desperation
of the Opposition than anything else. Some, such as Arjun Singh
are dying to get back into Parliament.

Others, such as Surjeet and his beloved Mulayam Singh Yadav, miss
the perks of office. (Yadav can't fly around at taxpayers'
expense any longer!)

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) seriously debated whether
the party should try to pull down the government on the issue.
Almost everybody but Arjun Singh opposed the idea. At this point,
Singh suggested Writing a letter. The rest is history....

But the prime minister's comprehensive reply settled the issue,
and Sonia Gandhi prudently decided to draw back. But it isn't
just the Samajwadi Party and the Left Front that are unhappy with
the Congress president.

The Americans too are upset that an assertive government hasn't
been overthrown. Communists hand-in-hand with Americans - now
there's a pretty picture for you! And we can get to see it in all
its ugly details when Parliament is reconvened in July.

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