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Saturday, 2 February, 2002, 16:58 GMT
BJP 'will back courts' over temple
Protesters in Delhi
Ayodhya has been a divisive issue in Indian politics
By the BBC's Ram Dutt Tripathi in Lucknow

The main party in India's governing coalition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has ruled out committing itself to the construction of a controversial temple in its election manifesto for assembly elections in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP says the dispute - involving the demand by Hindu hardliners to build a temple at the site where a 16th century mosque was razed - can be resolved either by the courts or through talks.

The BJP's election manifesto clearly reiterates the stand taken earlier this week by BJP President Jana Krishnamurti.

The manifesto states that the BJP will work to speed up court proceedings in the case relating to extreme right-wing Hindu demands for a temple in Ayodhya.

Clear break

Mr Krishnamurti had told journalists that his party was committed to the common agenda agreed by all its governing coalition partners.

Muslim protesters
Muslims say they will agree with the court decision
This, he said, clearly excluded a commitment to building a temple at the disputed site where a mosque was razed to the ground by hardline Hindu groups.

The statement reinforces a clear break the party was forced to make from its traditional stand on the issue when it came to power in 1999 leading a large coalition.

The party had, in 1989, extended its strong support to the hardline Hindu Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) for the construction of a temple to the Hindu god Ram in place of an ancient mosque in Ayodhya.

Hindu nationalists have always considered the site to be the birthplace of Ram, while Muslims say it is an historical site built by the Mughal emperor Babar.

A legal dispute about the site is pending before the courts.

In the past, the BJP joined the VHP in describing the issue as a matter of faith, beyond court jurisdiction.

But now the BJP says it will abide only by the court's decision or a negotiated settlement between the two parties in the dispute.

Analysts say the party's stand to stick by the commonly agreed agenda followed by the BJP at the centre for the Uttar Pradesh elections may help retain its allies, but it may also make winning the election for the party far tougher.

See also:

06 Dec 99 | South Asia
Protest over Ayodhya anniversary
06 Dec 98 | South Asia
Ayodhya anniversary passes peacefully
16 Jun 98 | South Asia
BJP raises stakes over Ayodhya
04 Feb 98 | S/W Asia
BJP attacked for temple pledge
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