The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), a hardline movement with close links to the BJP, has repeatedly demanded that the government pass a law to enable the construction of a temple in the northern city of Ayodhya.

 

Hindu zealots tore down the Ayodhya's Babri mosque, which they claim was built over a temple marking the Hindu god Ram's birthplace in 1992.

 

The event led to India's worst Hindu-Muslim riots since independence and left more than 2000 people dead.

 

Advani still faces court charges for an alleged role in the mosque's destruction, although he seems to have distanced himself from the movement since coming to power in 1998.

  

Advani said the government was "not ready to bring a legislation to create a division" in parliament.

 

Legislation

  

The "VHP wants us to bring ... a legislation which will definitely not get passed in parliament," Advani said.

  

"It (the VHP) wants us to contest elections on this plank. We are not ready to sacrifice the government," Advani told reporters en route to the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

 

Advani said a "real solution" to the row "lies in an agreement between the two communities (Muslims and Hindus), and I am optimistic that it is going to come."

  

He said the government would bring legislation on a temple "only in case of consensus not only within the NDA (National Democratic Alliance coalition) but also the opposition."

 

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, while generally considered more moderate than his deputy Advani, sparked a furore among Muslims around the world on 1 August when he vowed the Ram temple would eventually be built.

 

"Real solution lies in an agreement between the two communities (Muslims and Hindus), and I am optimistic that it is going to come."

- Indian Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani

Vajpayee made the pledge at the cremation in Ayodhya of 93-year-old cleric Ramchandra Paramhans, who campaigned for the temple for decades. 

  

The zealots' temple-building campaign was championed by the then opposition BJP. But the BJP has sought to distance itself from the temple movement since coming to power in 1998. Even though it has enough support to push most laws through parliament, the BJP is aware it could lose some of its two dozen coalition partners if it is viewed as taking an aggressively "anti-Muslim" stance.

 

The dispute over the Babri mosque site is now before the courts.