An Ayodhya related move that came a cropper in the days of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee is virtually once again being played out by the present day’s BJP regime. After a decade-and-half of Vajpayee’s rule the echoes of Ayodhya are being brought back with an eye upon this time’s general elections too.
Indeed, the Narendra Modi government’s move made before the top court on January 29 to beat the outcry for Mandir at the Kumbh fair in Allahabad reminds of what his party had tried a year before the elections in 2004 that sent the BJP packing.
The only difference between then, or 2003 to be exact, and now is that instead of moving before the Supreme Court for handing over land adjacent to the disputed site of demolished Babri Masjid to Hindutva outfits the Vajpayee government had relented to the advice of the then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and referred the demand of the outfits like Vishwa Hindu Parishad for land to the Union Law Ministry which was under Arun Jaitley at that point of time.
The Supreme Court was already hearing a petition related to Ayodhya dispute which was moved by a Delhi resident, Mohammed Aslam alias Bhure, through a petition and the Central government lawyers were making submissions sought through notices sent by the court.
The highest court passed an order on 31 March 2003 to decline the Centre’s suggestion for handing over the land adjacent to the spot where Babri Masjid once stood to not only the Hindutva outfits but also to none of the parties pending the final disposal of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case.
Earlier, the land around the spot was acquired by the Central government first through an ordinance followed by a law passed in the wake of the demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992 with the idea to ward any off further breach of peace.
Before this a part of the land near the disputed site was acquired by Uttar Pradesh government when Kalyan Singh became Chief Minister in 1991. The purpose of acquisition was developing the 2.77 acre of land around Babri Masjid for providing amenities to tourists. Somehow, within a year of the taking over the land the UP government allowed digging around the mosque and laying the foundation of Ram temple though within months after this the demolition took place.
The UP government had given the acquired land to the protagonists of the temple movement on a 99-year lease which is different from what the Central government is now claiming to be ownership of Ram Janam Bhoomi Nayas in case of 42 acres out of a total of 67 acres land at Ayodhya that was finally acquired by the Central government in 1993.
The fact that the disputed site is only one-third of an acre in a sprawl of over 67 acres has already been looked into by the Supreme Court with the result that the maintenance of status quo was ordered more than once by the court.
In the government’s wisdom this needs a relook by the court so as to bring a restoration of Nayas’ ownership through most of the land around the disputed site. This the government wants to get a nod of the apex court before a five-judge bench is able to dispose of the appeals against the Allahabad High Court order to trifurcate the disputed land between three parties, including the UP Waqf Board.
Strangely, the government move before the top court has come just a few weeks after Prime Minister told a news agency on the New Year’s Day about his intention, or resolve, to wait for the top court’s decision in the Ayodhya case.
Yet, the sudden change of stance has come alongside other political developments that have picked up pace as the deadline for the next countrywide polls to elect a new Parliament draws closer. So, falling back upon Ayodhya like Vajpayee’s time simply signifies poverty of ideas on the part of the government when poverty still faced by teeming millions threatens to be palpably the issue.
Thus, with no solutions to myriad woes of people like jobs and need for development in sight the government appears to have decided to fall back upon Ayodhya like before, or in Vajpayee’s time, once again though polls in Vajpayee’s days were a year away when orders in Aslam Bhure’s case had come.
Yet, Vajpayee had toyed with the idea of playing the Mandir card and elections were fought by the BJP a few months before the end of his term on slogans like ‘India Shining’ and ‘Feel Good Factor’ coined by Advani and other BJP strategists close to him. But in any case, this was after the Supreme Court did not go the way the then government wanted it to.