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Smita Gupta of the Times of India
"They are trying to address two different constituencies"
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Tuesday, 14 December, 1999, 20:26 GMT
Vajpayee's Ayodhya assurance

Heated debate in parliament over Ayodhya Heated debate in parliament over Ayodhya

By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has stressed that his Bharatiya Janata Party has no intention of building a temple on a disputed site in the town of Ayodhya.

His comments came after a controversy over the site where Hindu extremists destroyed a mosque in Ayodhya seven years ago, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Mr Vajpayee's comments followed repeated adjournments of the lower house of parliament, during a discussion on the contentious issue.

This was the third time, during the current session of parliament, that Mr Vajpayee was forced by opposition MPs to make a formal statement on the Ayodhya issue.

Chief Minister's comments

The row between the government and the opposition stemmed from reports which quoted the new BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Ram Prakash Gupta, saying that his administration was committed to building a temple on the disputed site.

Ram Prakash Gupta Chief Minister Gupta's comments sparked off a row
On Monday, opposition MPs created an uproar in parliament over Mr Gupta's comments, prompting Mr Vajpayee to reassure the house that his government had no plans to build the temple.

But as soon as parliament re-assembled on Tuesday, opposition MPs demanded what they said was clarification of the prime minister's comments.

Mr Vajpayee read out a written reply from Mr Gupta, in which he denied that the state government had plans to go ahead with building the temple.

Mr Vajpayee said that he hoped Mr Gupta's statement would put an end to the opposition's disquiet.

Opposition tactic

The BJP has accused the opposition of stirring up the controversy to gain political mileage.

Most commentators agree that the opposition's strategy is to embarrass the BJP, which recently attempted to play down the controversy in order not to upset some of its allies.

The opposition have demanded that three government ministers who have been charged in the case, including Home Minister LK Advani, must resign to ensure that they are tried fairly.

Mr Vajpayee has already rejected the demands.

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See also:
08 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Vajpayee faces Ayodhya anger
06 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Protest over Ayodhya anniversary
06 Dec 98 |  South Asia
Ayodhya anniversary passes peacefully
04 Feb 98 |  S/W Asia
BJP attacked for temple pledge
16 Jun 98 |  South Asia
BJP raises stakes over Ayodhya
03 Jul 98 |  South Asia
Tension increases over Indian temple dispute

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