Top BJP leaders discussed on Wednesday the political and legal fallout of the Supreme Court verdict on the Babri mosque demolition that has come as a setback to the party’s sidelined veterans including LK Advani.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, union ministers Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and M Venkaiah Naidu were huddled for two hours at Modi’s residence but a senior party leader played down the meeting’s significance, saying it had a number of issues, including the Kashmir crisis, on its agenda.
The meeting was held against the backdrop of the apex court verdict allowing the CBI to put Advani, 89 , Murli Manohar Joshi, 83 , and Uma Bharti, 57 , on trial after restoring the criminal conspiracy charges against them.
A senior leader insisted that it was a pre-scheduled meeting.
It is understood that the apex court verdict and its implications - political as well as legal - were discussed with the leadership exploring ways to deal with it.
Bharti, who had earlier in the day said she would go to Ayodhya on Wednesday night, cancelled her visit apparently after being advised by the party leadership.
Some BJP leaders said the party would not like the message to go out that the “heroes” of its most resonant Hindutva movement, spearheaded by Advani in early 90s, were tried for criminal conspiracy when it was in power at the Centre as well in Uttar Pradesh.
For the record, senior leader and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the party will study in detail the court verdict before offering comments.
Prasad asserted that BJP highly respects its leaders like Advani and Joshi.
The party has held the position that the demolition of mosque was not planned but a spontaneous act of agitating ‘kar sevaks’ and there was no conspiracy behind its razing on December 6, 1992 at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
The uneasy relationship that Modi and Shah share with Advani and Joshi also does not help the party.
Many critics of the BJP leadership have alleged that the verdict suits the party’s interest as it gives them a reason not to consider either of two veterans for the post of the President or the Vice-President.
Echoing this sentiment, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who as Bihar Chief Minister had ordered Advani’s arrest during his ‘rath yatra’, alleged that it was Modi’s “well thought-out politics” to rule out Advani’s name for the President’s post.
Today’s court order that the trial be completed in two years means that a verdict in the case will come around the time of the next Lok Sabha polls due in 2019, and may result in bringing back BJP’s core issue of Ram temple construction into limelight.
How Advani and Joshi will react to the development in the coming days is also an issue in the party.
A couple of leaders said their criticism of the party leadership since Modi took over as prime minister and Shah as its chief did not cut much ice with either the cadres or the masses.
It could be different this time around as the Ram temple movement remains an emotive issue in the BJP’s core constituency.
The development has also given a chance to Hindutva outfits to pressure the government over the issue.
VHP international president Pravin Togadia demanded that the central government appeal against the court verdict and also take measures to pave the way for the temple’s construction.