With the clock ticking away for judgment day on the Ayodhya issue, top guns of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have been confabulating in the last two days, assessing the situation and the public mood. The verdict in the case will be delivered by the Allahabad High Court in Lucknow on September 24.

On September 24 and 25, the VHP plans to organise a ‘baithak' (meeting) of ‘sants' associated with its `dharma sansad' (religious parliament). The RSS brass will be at hand for consultations. The decision by the Sangh Parivar is to allow the ‘sants' to lead from the front and give a call for building a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya, irrespective of the verdict, and with the help of legislation, if necessary.

The BJP is expected to take a back seat, having “admitted” to the RSS and the VHP leaders that it was a “mistake” for it to have politicised the Ram temple issue for political gain through L.K. Advani's ‘rath-yatra' and the earlier Palampur resolution.

It seems the RSS wants the ‘sants' to take the lead in giving the first reaction to the verdict to give the issue a non-political colour. This was clearly indicated by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently when he also said that the reaction would be within the bounds of the country's legal, democratic and constitutional framework.

On Wednesday, the Jhandewalan meeting was briefly attended by BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who left early to attend the all-party meeting on Kashmir. Three other BJP leaders invited for the discussions are: the former presidents Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi and general secretary Ramlal. Ashok Singhal and Pravin Togadia of the VHP were present at the discussions on Wednesday and Thursday. Mr. Bhagwat was present guiding the discussions in which a number of other senior RSS office-bearers, including some zonal heads, participated.

RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav later said that a judicial verdict could only be about a “small piece of disputed land” when, in fact, much more land would be needed for a Ram temple. This was possible only through Parliament legislation. “Ideally,” the problem should be resolved through negotiation or legislation, implying that a court verdict would not lead to the desired result.

The VHP has started a programme of singing Hanuman ‘chalisas' (hymns) in temples to mobilise public opinion on the Ram temple issue, but so far there are not many signs that they have been successful. As one VHP office-bearer said, the programme was to refresh people's collective memory of the Ram temple movement as it was in the late eighties and up to the demolition of the Babri masjid in December 1992.

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court has given one last chance to the parties to the dispute to state in court on Friday whether they are able to arrive at an amicable out-of-court settlement.

Much will depend on the outcome of the verdict. Mr. Bhagwat is on record that the RSS does not want to create trouble. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati is not leaving anything to chance and full-scale security measures are taken to ensure law and order.

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