| Rao: Self-defence
Oct. 31: Thirteen years ago, he sat silently pouting, virtually an outcast in the Prime Minister’s chair. P.V. Narasimha Rao has waited till a year after his death to hit back at his Congress colleagues, accusing them of playing a devious game during the Babri Masjid demolition.
“Brave words are being said after the event and people look like sages who knew everything beforehand,” Rao writes in Ayodhya, likely to be released by Penguin on December 6, the anniversary of the demolition.
“I must say that this is a pose because, having been authors of the crisis and enacted the whole drama of destruction, they wanted to have some specific role assigned to themselves in history, something even wrongly to be proud of.”
Days before the mosque was pulled down by kar sevaks, Arjun Singh, Rao’s cabinet colleague, had met Uttar Pradesh’s BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh in Lucknow and declared that all would be fine. Arjun later led a sustained campaign against Rao, accusing him of allowing the demolition to happen.
The book, which Rao had directed should be published only after his death, doesn’t mention Arjun ' if one leaves out the appendix that runs into 124 pages and is made up of parliamentary speeches, court orders, historical records, etc.
The thrust of the former Prime Minister’s argument is that while the Kalyan government and the BJP were solely responsible for the “wanton vandalism”, his Congress colleagues, too, had been guided by “political and vote-earning considerations”.
“They had already made up their mind that one person had to be made historically responsible for the tragedy'. They got a stick to beat me with. I understood it.”
In the chapter titled “The Building Blocks of Dispute”, Rao claims that these Congress leaders had made a crucial calculation well before the mosque fell on December 6, 1992.
“If there had been success (in preventing any incident -- as had seemed likely initially when Rao held behind-the-scenes consultations with Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders) they would readily share the credit or appropriate it for themselves. So they were playing either for success or an alibi'.”
Rao makes a dig at Rajiv Gandhi, too, debating whether the shilanyas Rajiv allowed in Ayodhya in 1989 took place on “disputed” or “undisputed” land. Rao cites several government records and statements to indicate that it was the latter.
In the 202-page book, Rao makes a feeble attempt to absolve himself of blame for the demolition, citing “factual, constitutional, political and legal” aspects of the events in Ayodhya. He insists that what happened in Ayodhya on that Sunday was beyond his control.
“Technically and legally”, the actual possession of the site was not with the Centre, he argues.
Rao claims that when the mosque was being pulled down, the magistrate on duty had refused to allow the central forces stationed in the town to advance to the site, saying the state government had given him written orders not to act.
“Thus, the exact moment when the forces could have scattered the crowd, it was turned back deliberately by official order. Here were two governments, creatures of the same Constitution, come into confrontation. So the central forces had to act according to the Constitution; there was no way out,” Rao writes.
He draws a comparison between 1990 ' when the police fired on the kar sevaks ' and 1992. What, to Rao, made the difference was that Mulayam Singh Yadav had mobilised the administration in 1990 while Kalyan had immobilised it two years later.
In the introduction, the former Prime Minister claims he didn’t write Ayodhya to justify or vindicate himself. He only wanted to reveal the “truth” about events and motives and point out certain “grey aspects” in the Constitution.
Rao, whose credibility took a nosedive after the demolition, said the answer to the “inevitable and irresistible” question of why the Centre had failed to slap Article 356 on the state in order to save the mosque can be found in the Supreme Court’s observations on the constitutional provision. That lengthy answer takes up a rather large portion of the book.
“Not one of my colleagues who suggested President’s rule came up basing it either on objective conditions prevailing in UP nor had they any idea of how President’s rule could be imposed in these specific conditions obtaining in UP on December 6 as distinguishable from the introduction of President’s rule elsewhere in normal times,” Rao writes.