New Delhi, Apr 19: The Supreme Court's order reviving the criminal conspiracy case against senior BJP leaders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi is a major setback for them if they had nursed any hopes to be in the race for the post of the President.
The election for the presidential polls are due in June-July.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept card close to his chest as to who would be the National Democratic alliance candidate, 89-year-old Advani and 83-year-old Joshi were seen as serious contenders for the presidential elections.
The Supreme Court has said Advani, Joshi, union minister Uma Bharti, among 13 others, will have to stand trial for criminal conspiracy to demolishing the Babri Masjid structure on December 6, 1992. The court has fixed two years for completion of the trial that is currently ongoing in Lucknow, and that the trial judge will not be transferred.
Hitherto, Advani and Joshi, along with Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar (BJP), Sadhvi Rithambra, and late Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal and Vishnu Hari Dalmia (VHP) were facing trial for making speeches from the dais at Ramkatha Kunj prior to the razing of the 16th century structure in Ayodhya by mobs.
Until two days ago, Advani had given enough hints that his role in politics was far from over. In an interview to Lokmat, he had said it hurts him when his own party men declare him an old dodderer and advice him to retire.
Advani had said, “It does not at all go down well with me whenever someone says something like that about me.”
Advani even stressed that there is no correlation between age and the capacity to work. "Age is never a stumbling block if your mind is alert and you are eager to work."
Advani, who was upset when BJP declared Modi as PM candidate in 2013, has always held that he was not in the race for any post.
But some Opposition leaders began to see new conspiracy. "The revival of the conspiracy charge against Advani is itself a conspiracy of Modi to remove the BJP veteran from the Presidential race," Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad said.
"The CBI is in the hands of the PM, and the CBI today said in court that the case of conspiracy should take place against Advani in the Babri case. Advani was tipped to become President this time. The PM has clipped Advani's chances of becoming the President. Anyone can understand that it is a political conspiracy of the Modi government to eliminate Advani from the race," Lalu said in Patna.
Though the BJP leaders are backing Advani and Joshi against the revival of the conspiracy case, some see that the SC's order might put pressure on them to quit their Lok Sabha membership to defend themselves.
However, senior BJP leader Uma Bharti said she won't quit from the Modi cabinet or give up her Lok Sabha membership.
Politically, the revival of the criminal conspiracy case in Lucknow suits the BJP. It could help the Sangh Parivar outfits to again drum up support to for building the Ram temple in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The civil case on the dispute over the ownership of the land where Babri Masjid stood is before the Supreme Court after Allahabad High Court favoured a three-way split.
The High Court said Ram was born under the central dome of the makeshift temple and Hindus have the right to worship there. It ruled by a majority verdict that the disputed disputed site of 2.77 acres (120 feet by 90 feet plot) land be divided into three equal parts among the three petitioners — Sunni Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the party representing Ram Lalla.