Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani's visit to Somnath on Saturday had a strong symbolic hue, compared to his annual ritual for the last 20 years since he launched his controversial rath yatra for a Ram temple at Ayodhya from there.
Advani went to Somnath against the backdrop of the Supreme Court's deferment of Allahabad High Court's verdict on the issue, which was scheduled for September 24.
Secondly, expelled BJP leader Uma Bharti — one of the aggressive faces of the temple movement — accompanied him setting off fresh speculation about her imminent return to the fold. But senior leaders quickly quashed all rumours.
In tune with the BJP core group's resolution echoing the concerns of the RSS — delayed judicial process on the conflict — Advani said at Somnath: "I appeal to the apex court that countrymen have been awaiting a judgment in this case since the last 50 years…. I urge the court to take up the matter finally on September 28 and give it back to Allahabad HC for decision on September 29."
In tune with the RSS, Advani also added that he failed to understand why the verdict was deferred. "I respect the judicial system ... But when the masses are awaiting the decision on Ayodhya, and when litigants involved also want the verdict...and when the Allahabad High Court had also rejected the petition to defer the verdict, this decision has come from the Supreme Court."
Advani, however, extended his gag order to BJP leaders and workers. "But, now I will ask people and BJP workers to maintain calm for another few days as a respect to our courts."
Advani, who is keen that Uma Bharti is taken back, dismissed questions on her return. "She had expressed the desire to come with me to Somnath and that is the reason she is here."
Bharti had set off similar speculation in June, when she travelled in a chartered plane with Advani to Raipur to attend the funeral ceremony of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh's father. Bharti, who was expelled in December 2005, has been open about her desire to return.