In a last minute bid to avoid a showdown, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav on Thursday softened a bit offering a compromise formula to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is planning a massive congregation in Ayodhya on Friday.
Yadav offered to allow regulated darshan and prayers at the disputed site in the temple town.
The VHP's reaction to the government's late night offer was still not known though the outfit's UP in-charge Purushottam Narain Singh told PTI over telephone, "though belated, it is good." The Centre's pointsman, Union Minister of State for Home Swami Chinmayanand, welcomed the offer and suggested the saffron outfit also do the same. He also wanted the state government to release arrested VHP cadres.
Following up on the chief minister's offer, Chief Secretary Akhand Pratap Singh told reporters in Lucknow that the government would facilitate prayers and worship by Ram bhakts who have congregated on Ayodhya from across the country.
They would be ferried by bus from Saket College, located on the outskirts of Ayodhya, to the disputed site, he said but ruled out extending the facility to arrested VHP activists.
Prayers would be allowed between 7 and 11 am and 1.30 and 5.30 pm in keeping with a court order.
The chief secretary said officials were in touch with VHP leaders in Ayodhya but have not been able to contact its president Ashok Singhal.
The VHP had rejected the chief minister's earlier offer to allow VHP cadres to congregate 5km away from the disputed site for their 'Sankalp Sabha' (meeting to take a pledge). PTI