Rajiv Gandhi government wanted to appease Muslims
How did the issue of Ram Janmabhoomi start?
I will start from the beginning. In 1528, Mir Baqi built a mosque after Babar. It is believed that there was a temple there. The place was always called Ramjanmabhoomi masjid.
Is there evidence that a temple existed there?
The Archaeological Survey of India made studies but the findings were never revealed. Since 1934, no namaj was being offered there. According to the Shariat, if namaj is not offered at a mosque for 14 years, it's no longer a place of worship. During the time of Indira Gandhi, the Congress played the anti-Sikh card for Hindu consolidation, leading to Bhindranwale and Bluestar.
In the Muslim context, after the Shah Bano judgment, the government of Rajiv Gandhi decided to appease the Muslims. At the same time, there were large-scale conversions to Islam in Meenakshipuram. The Muslims said they should be allowed to offer namaj at all Muslim tombs. This was allowed. The Babri Masjid Committee also asked for the same.
Image: Kar Sevaks atop the Babri Masjid. (Inset) Govindacharya
'It was merely a structure'
In 1948, idols of Ramlulla mysteriously appeared in the structure.
Inside the mosque?
It was merely a structure.
Why weren't they removed?
The then district collector, KK Nair, said people were coming to offer pujas and he could not anger them. The structure was kept locked, but a pujari offered pujas. In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi got the locks opened. Then, the Ramjanmabhoomi Samiti began to demand that a temple be built there. The VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) also raised the demand. It wanted the shilanyas in 1989.
But why did the Congress open the locks?
They were playing the anti-Sikh, pro-Hindu card. In 1999, Rajiv Gandhi launched his election campaign from Ayodhya. The sants began to unite the akharas for the stone-laying ceremony.
How did you become accused number 19 in the Liberhan report on the masjid demolition?
I came to the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) in 1988. At that time, the BJP was keen on postponing the shilanyas as it wanted to tie up with VP Singh. But the VHP wanted the shilanyas with or without the alliance. My effort as general secretary was that both should happen. In 1990, the kar seva started.
Image: File photo of Babri masjid before the attack
'People were not ready for just a symbolic kar seva'
It was to mobilise people for the shilanyas. It was to be from four parts of the country, to be undertaken by four leaders. Finally, only Advani agreed to take part. He started from Somnath, where a temple was built in 1953. It was symbolic of what could be done in Ayodhya.
Did it not occur to you that this would create ill feelings?
Several options were discussed. Finally, it was decided to do a survey to find if a temple existed there. VP Singh, then an ally of the BJP, even passed an Ordinance for such a survey, but withdrew it the next day. Then he quit. In 1990, on October 30 and November 2, kar seva was done, leading to two attempts to demolish the structure. In 1991, the BJP contested and improved its tally, but the Congress formed the government.
How much money was raised for the temple?
We raised Rs 9 crore. Stones were brought and carved. They are still there at Karsevakpuram in Ayodhya. Kar seva was planned for December 6, 1991. Close to 125,000 people came from across the country. They were to take sand and stones to the shilanyas site.
Where was this?
It was near the structure. But people were not ready for just a symbolic kar seva. They were frustrated and their leaders could not fathom this. Only 30 per cent of them were from the Sangh. Others were just kar saveks and had no concern for the organisation. My apprehension is that some people from Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Maharashtra were bent on defying the Sangh Parivar. Once they started attacking, others joined. It was a natural resentment.
Image: File photo showing Advani embarking on his Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra
'The mandir would not have been possible without mobilisation'
The sense of history has to be common or the country cannot grow.
You could have built a small shrine near the structure without whipping up hysteria.
The mandir would not have been possible without mobilisation. But it was possible without demolition. So, Advani said after this that we lost an important issue and that it was his saddest day. I said it should not be condemned or condoned.
Why saddest day? Didn't it help BJP?
No, the BJP lost all five state elections after that. After 1992, it became an untouchable party.
What do you have to say on the Liberhan report?
It should be rejected stock and barrel lock. It is an oversimplistic evaluation of the situation. My name has been added among the accused but I was never summoned.
Image: File photo of BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists shouting slogans
Photographs: Amit Gupta/Reuters
'BJP should merge with Congress'
I was general secretary till 2000 and was wondering what I could do to create space for ideology. But the BJP remained power-centric. Atalji and Advaniji were liberal democrats and believed an ideological party could not come to power.
On the one side, there was domination of foreign ecomomic forces, and on the other, the government and the party were not alive to these. Checks and balances were missing. So, first I took study leave and delved into the impact of globalisation. Now, I am building on my conclusions.
The foundation is ready in the form of the Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan, which is a political organisation, and Rashtriya Morcha, which is agitational. We will fight elections in 2014.
What do you think the BJP should do now?
The Congress and the BJP are both pro-foreign and pro-rich. They should merge. They are not allowing space to pro-poor voices. If you do this, you are leading people to anarchist forces.
Image: A BJP worker installs his party's symbol on the balcony of a party office
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
'No one can repair the BJP'
There are too many conflicts and contradictions. No one can repair it. From Shahnawaj to Varun Gandhi, it's a 180-degree-wide spectrum. You have Murli Manohar Joshi and Murlidar Rao on the one end on economic policies and Advani on the other. You have Modi welcoming SEZs and malls to wreck the party. He cares two hoots about the Sangh Parivar. You also have Shivraj Chauhan, who can't live without the Sangh Parivar. All relationships are need-based.
Will you go if invited?
I do get feelers.
Do you regret calling Vajpayee a mukhauta?
I never said it.
You have talked of development in your manifesto. What do you have to say on the ongoing struggles for land and water?
Mass protests alone will solve this. In 2012, we will mobilise 300,000 people to surround Parliament. Our basic plank is eco-centric development. I am with development people like Medha Patkar. The BJP and the Congress will be on the one side and pro-people and pro-poor on the other. Our efforts are to precipitate this polarisation.
Image: Atal Bihari Vajpayee