New Delhi: As the BJP brass on Wednesday went into a huddle discussing the fallout of the Supreme Court order on the razing of the Babri masjid, opposition parties demanded the sacking of Union Minister Uma Bharti for her role in it.
Bharti, who along with BJP veterans L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi will now face trial for conspiracy behind the demolition of the 16th century disputed structure, however, was unfazed, even abrasive, as she rejected the demand.
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.
Senior party leader and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the BJP respected its leaders like Advani and Joshi and that it would offer comments only after studying the verdict in detail. 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.
Main opposition Congress lapped up the opportunity provided by the apex court's order restoring the conspiracy charge against the BJP leaders and demanded that those guilty be punished.
"The Prime Minister talks a lot about morality. He should put his morality to test after this verdict. We leave it to the Prime Minister's conscience on how he reacts morally to this extensive judgement of the Supreme Court," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters.
The Congress also urged Modi to ensure that his ministers maintained a "high standard of morality", apparently suggesting that Bharti should resign. "The law is equal for everyone irrespective of stature, caste, creed, religion or region," he said. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal also expressed satisfaction over the order and hoped that Modi would remember his "pronouncements" on morality.
"As far as other issues concerned, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is always very committed to the cause of morality. Those are his public pronouncements. Occasionally, he forgets morality when it comes to his ministers. Let us hope he doesn't forget it this time," he said.
A fiery Bharti, however, rejected the demand outright. There was "no conspiracy and everything was in the open", she told reporters after the apex court verdict. Bharti said she was "proud, unapologetic and unrepentant" about her association with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and was prepared to get "hanged or be jailed" on the issue of construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. "There was no conspiracy, everything was in the open...I was associated with the Ram temple movement with full confidence and pride.
"The court has said that we be tried for conspiracy. There was no conspiracy...Yes, I was present in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. Where does one see any conspiracy?" Bharti asked. "I am ready to face whatever punishment it takes for the construction of a temple at Ayodhya or be it on the issue of cleaning of the Ganga, the tricolour or cow. I have never repented or apologised," she said, adding, "the post of a minister is too small for me".
RJD boss Lalu Prasad, who had ordered the arrest of Advani during his 'Ram Rath Yatra', thereby earning the goodwill of Muslims which stood him in good stead for years, smelt in the development a "well-thought-out politics" by Modi to keep the BJP veteran out of contention for Presidential election.
"The CBI is under the influence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It stood in the Supreme Court and sought permission to run trial against Advani and others in the Babri Masjid demolition case," Prasad told reporters in Patna. "Since Advani's name was in circulation as a probable for the post of President, Modi through well-thought-out politics struck out his name," he alleged. "It is well known that the CBI does what the government desires," the RJD chief said.
"We welcome the SC order. Finally, some balance has been restored. Some good gesture has been made. I think these people should not continue to hold public positions like that of a minister if they have any moral authority left," CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told reporters in Delhi.
The CPI too insisted that Bharti and Singh give up their respective public offices. Kalyan Singh was the Chief Minister of UP in 1992 when the demolition took place and an accused in the case. He, however, will not face trial on account of constitutional immunity he enjoys as Governor.