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Advani starts yatra with plea to Muslims

The BJP leader has appealed to the Muslims to abandon their claim over the disputed site in Ayodhya.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2006 21:56 IST

Sixteen years after his landmark 'Ram Rath' yatra which changed the contours of Indian politics, senior BJP leader LK Advani on Thursday embarked on his sixth yatra invoking Lord Ram and appealing to Muslims to abandon their claim over the disputed site in Ayodhya.

The launch of the 6,000 km long 'Bharat Suraksha Yatra' on Ram Navami day in the presence of Hindutva poster boy and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Ministers of other party-ruled states and senior BJP leaders was replete with ideological symbols including portraits of Lord Ram and a hooded terrorist in the background, Advani aiming an arrow from a large bow, blowing of conch shells and chanting of Vedic hymns.

But the post-Jinnah Advani, who has expressed a keenness to change the party's hardliner anti-minorities image, was far from aggressive.

Even the BJP's historic 1989 Palampur resolution endorsing the Ram Janambhoomi movement was not anti-Muslim, he asserted before the gathering which included Muslims donning skull caps both on the dais and the audience.

He also expressed concern over "Congressisation" of BJP and factionalism and corruption in the party and counselled the partymen to "tread carefully."

Making a fervent appeal to the Muslims to respect Hindu sentiments and facilitate the construction of a grand Ram temple at the disputed site, Advani said the "minority appeasement" policies of successive Congress Governments, which began from the Shah Bano case, has only boosted the party's strength but was "neither in the interests of the Muslims or the country".

If both the communities come together for the construction of the Ram temple, it would bring about an unprecedented harmony and goodwill in the society, the former Deputy Prime Minister said.

Interestingly, undertaking his first major political campaign after his controversial Pakistan visit last year, the veteran BJP leader sought to avoid any criticism of the neighbouring country on the issue of terrorism but focused on eastern neighbour Bangladesh over the arrest of its alleged nationals in the Varanasi bomb blast case.

First Published: Apr 06, 2006 15:34 IST