Although the BJP has tried to put on a show of unity and called for a revival of the Ram temple issue, the party remains plagued by deep disunity.
36045 7/7/2005 11:16 05NEWDELHI5216 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL 05NEWDELHI5165 "This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available." "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NEW DELHI 005216
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/07/2015 TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PREL, PTER, KISL, IN, PK, Counter-Terrorism SUBJECT: BJP MISCALCULATES AGAIN: EFFORTS TO CAPITALIZE ON AYODHYA FIZZLE
REF: NEW DELHI 5165
Classified By: PolCouns Geoffrey Pyatt, for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: BJP attempts to capitalize on the July 5 Ayodhya terrorist attack have largely fallen flat, and opposition calls for the resignation of Home Minister Patil and the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Chief Minister have evoked little popular response. BJP calls for nationwide strikes and demonstrations on July 6 went largely unheeded outside of opposition controlled states. Although the BJP has tried to put on a show of unity and called for a revival of the Ram temple issue, the party remains plagued by deep disunity, with the RSS determined to remove LK Advani, who now faces renewed legal problems stemming from his role in the 1992 demolition of the Babri Mosque. So far, the real winners from the unsuccessful terrorist strike are Congress and UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. Most Indians praise the performance of the security forces and heeded the Prime Minister's call for calm. The left was quick to support Congress and close ranks against a renewed communal agitation. Mulayam was facing renewed threats to his tenure in UP, but BJP calls for his resignation have lifted his political fortunes and rallied his supporters. End Summary
The BJP Acts Fast
2. (C) Following an early morning terror strike on the Ayodhya site, the BJP leadership emerged from its July 5 New Delhi meeting energized and confident. Locked in internecine squabbling and losing popularity prior to the attack, they told reporters that they saw the Ayodhya incident as an opportunity for revival and consolidation. The BJP leadership hoped that the attack would:
--end the ongoing conflict between Party President LK Advani and the RSS (over the latter's remarks about Mohammed Ali Jinnah),
--revive the sagging morale of the party cadre,
--turn around the party's flagging electoral fortunes, especially in the Hindi belt and Uttar Pradesh (UP).
3. (U) Opposition leaders pointed out that for the first time in months the Sangh Parivar (family of Hindu organizations) had buried its differences and was jointly supporting the BJP's planned protests against the attack. Some hoped that the RSS would unite with Advani to meet the challenge presented at Ayodhya.
The BJP Action Plan
4. (U) While the Prime Minister was urging the nation to remain calm and await the results of the ongoing investigation into the attack before passing judgment, the BJP was quick to pounce. Rajya Sabha Opposition Leader Jaswant Singh called the attack an ""assault on the Hindu faith"" and accused the UPA of propagating a ""softness toward terrorism"", and ""a certain mindset that no one need bother about Hindu feelings."" Others in the party questioned how a (presumably Pakistani) terrorist gang could operate deep in the Indian heartland.
5. (U) To protest the attack the BJP:
--demanded the resignation of Home Minister Shivraj Patil and UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav,
--scheduled nationwide protest marches in major Indian cities,
--called a general strike (bandh) in UP, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Orissa,
--announced that former Chief Ministers Rajnath Singh and Kalyan Singh and BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi would go to Ayodhya.
Press reports also indicate that in Jharkhand and UP BJP demonstrators publicly blamed Pakistan for the attack and burned the Pakistani flag.
The RSS Claims Vindication
6. (U) The RSS leadership coincidentally was meeting in Surat on July 5. The RSS leaders claimed that the Ayodhya attack would unify the BJP and the Sangh Parivar around the Hindutva cause. Blaming the attack on ""Islamic terrorism and minority appeasement,"" the RSS leaders claimed vindication, saying the attack would ""once and for all open the eyes of those sections of the Sangh Parivar which were deviating from the basic Hindutva ideology (a veiled swipe at Advani)."" VHP leader Praveen Togadia was quick to blame Pakistan, ""jihadi terrorism"" and ""Muslim vote bank politics"" for the attack, noting that ""I have been telling the Government and the Indian Army for over two years that if we don't crush Pakistan's jihadi terrorism in Lahore and Islamabad, we will have to fight it in New Delhi and Ayodhya.""
Tear Gas in New Delhi
7. (U) The BJP's July 6 rally in New Delhi turned violent, as demonstrators ""courting arrest"" clashed with police, leading authorities to use tear gas and water cannons. Addressing the rally, Advani appeared to make another political about face. During his May 30-June 6 trip to Pakistan (Reftel B) he had touched off a firestorm of criticism for his remark that the day of the 1992 demolition of the Babri Mosque was the ""saddest day of my life."" Returning to his role of Hindu rabble rouser, Advani announced that the attack had made ""the Ram temple campaign a mainstream issue,"" and restated the BJP's commitment to build a Ram temple at Ayodhya. Claiming that the UPA had failed to secure the Ayodhya site, Advani reiterated the BJP demand for Patil and Mulayam's resignations.
The Agitation Flops
8. (U) The BJP call for nationwide protests on July 6 was largely unobserved outside of BJP controlled states. Although VHP and RSS cadre attempted to coerce shopowners to shut down, Uttar Pradesh, including Ayodhya, was calm, with most businesses open as usual. Uttaranchal was also calm. The most widespread response was in Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Rajasthan, where protests were encouraged by sympathetic BJP governments. In the MP city of Indore, BJP protesters broke through a perimeter wall of the airport, delaying a flight to Delhi and vandalizing the waiting room. Others blocked railway tracks, stopping several trains. In anticipation of trouble, MP schools closed down. In Rajasthan, the state government closed its offices and kept state employees home.
The NDA Opts Out
9. (U) The BJP's allies in the NDA distanced themselves from the agitation, with Janata Dal(U) leader George Fernandes praising the security forces for stopping the attack, absolving the UP state government of any wrongdoing, and refusing to join the BJP call for the dismissal of Mulayam Singh Yadav. Unnamed NDA leaders were quoted in press reports stating that ""the world has changed,"" and an agitation based on the Ram temple ""cannot last even a few days."" Chandrababa Naidu of the NDA ally the Telegu Desam Party joined Fernandes in praising the security forces, and appealed for calm.
Advani's Troubles Mount
10. (U) Just as Advani was attempting to recast himself as the leader of a renewed Ram temple agitation, his previous actions came back to haunt him. On July 6, in an action unrelated to the terrorist attack, the Lucknow Bench of the UP High Court dismissed the judgment of a lower court and reinstated previous criminal cases against Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, and other BJP and VHP leaders stemming from the Babri Mosque demolition in 1992. The court ordered new trials for Advani and the other defendants under section 149 of the Indian Penal Code, for ""provoking people into rioting, arson and indulging in rioting with intent to create disorder.""
Reactions from UP
11. (C) Embassy interlocutors in UP generally dismissed the BJP's strike call, agreeing that the attack would not revive the party's flagging fortunes. The Lucknow Editor of the ""Hindustan Times"" predicted the attack would revive the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav rather than the BJP, saying ""the more the BJP attacks, the stronger he will become,"" and suggesting that Muslims would now return to the SP, strengthening Mulayam's hold on the state.
12. (C) The ""Asian Age"" Bureau Chief dismissed the strike call, saying ""the Hindutva plank has lost all relevance."" He predicted that attempts by BJP leaders to rouse emotions in Ayodhya would fall on deaf ears. A Lucknow Shia leader noted that while the state's Muslims were ""shocked"" by the attack, they were happy that it was thwarted. He predicted that Muslims would remain calm and not respond to attempts by politicians to rouse their emotions.
Reactions in Delhi
13. (C) SP MP Shahid Siddiqui was quick to take credit for preventing the attack, saying ""my party's government in UP deserves full marks for controlling the situation so efficiently. We will not allow communal peace and harmony to be disturbed by the BJP."" Pointing out that the electronic media now work to control rumors, Siddiqui asserted that the state's communal situation has changed since the Babri Mosque was destroyed and that both Hindus and Muslims are determined to remain peaceful and avoid trouble.
14. (C) Congress MP Rashid Alvi praised Pakistan for its quick condemnation of the attack, and predicted that the BJP agitation would fail everywhere except in the BJP controlled states. Alvi quickly dismissed BJP calls for Home Minister Patil's resignation saying that similar attacks took place when the NDA was in power and Advani was Home Minister, and there was no talk of resignation then.
15. (C) ""Hard News"" Editor Sanjay Kapoor predicted that the UPA would emerge stronger after the Ayodhya attack, as it would bring the Left parties and Congress closer together. Indeed, the Ayodhya crisis has pushed Left opposition to closer Indo-US defense ties and UPA economic reforms into the background. Kapoor pointed out that the Left fears any revival of the BJP and would cooperate with Congress to ensure that the BJP agitation fails to take off.
BJP Decline to Continue
16. (C) ""Hindustan Times"" columnist and political insider Pankaj Vohra told Poloff on July 6 that the BJP is in serious trouble and predicted that its problems would continue to mount despite the Ayodhya attack. Vohra claimed that his sources say that the RSS will not rest until Advani is dismissed from the party leadership and replaced as party president by Murli Manohar Joshi. RSS sources tell Vohra that Advani could be out by as early as July 11. Vohra insisted that Advani had wanted to lead the agitation from Ayodhya, but was told by the RSS that he was not welcome there and they could not guarantee his safety.
17. (C) Vohra believes that the BJP has no option but to return to Hindutva and face the electoral consequences. The RSS is telling the party leadership that only a Hindutva plank will ensure that the BJP is a ""party with a difference,"" and that although this will cost the party over the short term, it is the only way to ensure its revival over the long term. Our contacts agree that the BJP will continue to lose elections for the next three years and could be reduced to a regional party holding only its bastions in the Hindi belt and Gujarat. Vohra echoed other interlocutors predicting that the Ayodhya agitation would fail, saying ""the Ram temple issue has no traction.""
18. (C) The BJP is increasingly desperate as it enters a period of protracted decline. Seeing the Ayodhya attack as an opportunity, it moved quickly to exploit it, but over-reached. BJP verbal attacks on Pakistan and burning the Pakistani flag will not go down well with Indians bent on normalizing relations with Islamabad. Likewise, the violent acts of BJP goons to enforce the strike will further alienate Indians fed up with political violence. All indications are that the latest BJP strategy will fail to gel and that there is no formula yet identified that can prevent further BJP setbacks.
19. (C) In domestic terms, Congress could be a big winner from the Ayodhya attack. The Prime Minister was quick to reassure the nation, the party indulged in no histrionics, and most Indians are happy with the performance of the security forces. The Left will likely close ranks with Congress as long as there is any threat that the BJP and its Sangh Parivar allies will revive Hindu communalism. This could give Congress renewed freedom of action over the short term. The hold of Mulayam Singh Yadav over UP has also been strengthened, and Congress will therefore likely defer its plans to move against him.