Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee kept a distance from the Ram temple movement and in private conversations objected to its agitational stance, according to a new book titled "Shades of Saffron: From Vajpayee to Modi" by seasoned journalist Saba Naqvi.
But Naqvi, who has had the first-hand experience of covering the BJP for well over two decades, contends that "the building of a grand Ram temple was a core issue that the BJP couldn't afford to ignore".
"Vajpayee therefore made a subtle change in tack and said that it was no longer necessary for a BJP government to enact a legislation to build a temple at Ayodhya," Naqvi writes in the book, published by Westland.
"We will resolve the issue through dialogue -- the same way we resolved the Azadari dispute between the Shias and Sunnis of Lucknow. A law will not be needed," Vajpayee, who is currently undergoing treatment for urinary tract infection at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) here, is quoted as saying in the book.
"There are still legal constraints on the party's desire to build a 'magnificent Ram temple at Ayodhya' and the same path is again being trod almost two decades later by some individuals like Sri Sri Ravishankar who's trying to get stakeholders to resolve matters," Naqvi notes in the 284-page book.
She also points out that several informed people on both sides say that the long-awaited verdict on the disputed land "could be delivered in 2018", before the general elections.
"What's more, in May 2017, the Supreme Court of India also revived criminal conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti for bringing down the Babri mosque," she adds.
"'Can anyone think about India without Ram?' he once asked me, but added with utmost honesty that 'We can only implement our ideology if we have the strength to do so. Yeh sab hamara karyakram hai, lekin shakti nahin hai' (All this is in our agenda but we lack the strength to pursue it)," Naqvi recalls in the book.
Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had earlier told IANS that the best solution to the festering Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute is an out-of-court settlement under which the Muslims gift the land to the Hindus for building a grand Ram temple.
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