Indian Express
New Delhi, 7 April 1995
3. BJP promoting a ‘minority-friendly’
image for elections
Express New Service

New Delhi - While declaring that liberation of the Varanasi and Mathura temples was not on its agenda, the Bharatiya Janata Party has not entirely foreclosed the potentially emotional issues.

Fashioning an ambivalent strategy ahead of the next year’s general elections, the BJP after its Panaji session, has sought to don a “minority-friendly” image, while insisting that its “basic image will stay intact”.

In other words, the ideological mascot of Hindutva, stays firmly embedded.

The BJP members, particularly those originally belonging to the banned Vishwa Hindu Parishad, will take part in the VHP’s forthcoming campaign for liberation of the Kashi Vishwanath and Krishna Janmabhoomi shrines.

Secondly, the BJP has declared that it will do nothing to persuade other constituents of the Sangh Parivar to drop the campaign for the two temples.

In effect, Mr. L.K. Advani’s offer at one point of time, to persuade these constituents to call off the stir if the Ayodhya tangle was suitably resolved, now stands withdrawn.

And finally, the party has made clear in unequivocal terms, that there are no fissures in the Sangh Parivar. This is after the VHP leader, Mr. Giriraj Kishore, announced plans to intensify the stir and Mr. L.K. Advani at Panaji, asserted that the two temples were not on the party’s agenda.

The BJP vice-president, Mr. Krishan Lal Sharma, explaining the party’s stand said, “We have made it very clear that the two temples are not on our agenda”.

However, asked if this meant that the issue was closed forever, as far as the BJP was concerned, he said, “We are talking about it now. Can anyone talk of what happens in the future? Whatever resolutions etc., are passed, are for the present. The question of now or never therefore, does not arise”.

Which means that the door is still open, albeit by a toe-hold. As the party comes within striking distance of Delhi, following its success in the recent round of State elections, the religious element will continue to be down-played.

In fact, the BJP State units are dispatching workers into the minority pockets to assure them that no harm shall come to them.

However, should things change dramatically in the build-up to the general elections, the BJP appears to reserve the option of falling back on the religion card.

In any case, thanks to the strict code of conduct, the BJP platform itself will not witness the religious fervour, but the message would go out of the other constituents of the Sangh Parivar.

Observers here point out the recent campaign in Gujarat where Sadhvi Rithambra and other VHP leaders, laid the ground for the BJP to mount its campaign.

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