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20 Apr 2017

Nothing has changed, says BJP - Govt rules out minister Uma's resignation, party pleased to have temple back in focus

A December 6, 1992, picture shows people shouting and waving banners as they stand on top of a stone wall after the destruction of Babri Masjid. (AFP)
J.P.Jadav, TT,  New Delhi, April 19: The government today ruled out Union minister Uma Bharti's resignation following the Supreme Court's decision to revive criminal conspiracy charges in the Babri demolition case, making its stand clear on a matter ideologically linked to the ruling BJP.
The party too appeared pleased at the prospect of the Ram temple issue occupying centre stage once more.
"The (Babri mosque) matter is on since 1993. It is not a new situation. It will go on as it has till now," finance minister Arun Jaitley said during a briefing on decisions taken by the Union cabinet today.
Jaitley was responding to a question about the charges against water resources minister Uma, one of the senior BJP leaders to be tried for criminal conspiracy over the December 1992 demolition.
Asked if that meant Uma would continue as a minister, Jaitley targeted main rival Congress. "If being chargesheeted was a rule for removal, then very few Congress chief ministers would be left," he said without elaborating.
Sources in the government said the temple issue was linked to the BJP's core ideology and there was no question of going on the back foot.
Uma, a leading light of the Ram temple movement, appeared to be rejoicing in the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the CBI's plea to restore the conspiracy charge against the party leaders, including veterans L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
"It was no conspiracy. Everything was done openly," the saffron-robed leader told a press conference. "A grand Ram temple in Ayodhya is my dream. I'm ready to go to prison or be hanged for India and Ram mandir," she said, repeating what she had said nearly a fortnight back.
Earlier this month, Uma had told reporters in Lucknow that she was ready to face the "death sentence" but wanted the temple "as soon as possible".
Today, she emphasised that she was "proud" to be part of the temple movement and declared that she would set out for Ayodhya in the evening to seek "Ram Lalla's (infant Ram's) blessings".
Late tonight Uma cancelled her visit to Ayodhya after BJP chief Amit Shah asked her not to go ahead with the trip.
Earlier, in the afternoon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting of the party's core group at his official residence. Among those who attended were senior ministers in the government.
Sources said the meeting had long been scheduled and had not been called after the Supreme Court's verdict that came a little after the cabinet meeting got over earlier in the day.
A BJP leader said discussions on the rising unrest in Kashmir were at the top of the agenda, though the court verdict could also have been discussed.
Another meeting also took place late this evening when Joshi met Advani at the residence of his fellow sidelined veteran. No details were immediately available.
Officially, the BJP refrained from reacting to today's court ruling. Internally, however, the party appeared to be happy that the ruling had brought the temple issue back to the forefront, which, sources said, would help build public opinion in favour of a Ram temple at the disputed site.
"With the issue gaining centre stage, public opinion will be generated in favour of a Ram temple and it will help our cause both politically and in the physical construction of the temple," a BJP leader said.
Insiders said the party was under pressure from its supporters to build the temple, now that the BJP was in power in Uttar Pradesh too.
BJP sources denied Opposition charges of a plan behind the CBI reviving the criminal conspiracy charges against Advani, Joshi and the others. RJD chief Lalu Prasad had alleged that it was a ploy to derail Advani's chances of becoming President of India.
"Charges of conspiracy are bogus. If Uma Bharti can continue as minister, L.K. Advani can also become President, provided the current leadership makes him a candidate," a BJP leader said.
Jaitley avoided a direct reply when asked the same question. "It is a hypothetical question," he said, asked whether the logic of not removing Uma as a minister would also apply to Advani's chances of being selected as a presidential candidate.
Asked the same question, Vishwa Hindu Parishad national president Champat Rai, another accused in the case, said: "It is a matter of pride that Advaniji led the Ram temple movement. The glory of the post of President of India would be enhanced. The country's dignity would be protected."
Rai described the conspiracy charge as baseless, said he was proud to be part of the temple movement and justified the demolition. "All the symbols of slavery have to be removed," he said.

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