Four key players in the dispute who are no longer alive include three former prime ministers — Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh and P.V. Narasimha Rao. The fourth is senior BJP leader, the late Pramod Mahajan.
It was during Gandhi’s tenure that two controversial decisions were taken, which apparently saw a surge in the movement for the construction of the Ram Temple.
It was in 1986 that a district judge in Faizabad allowed the gates of the disputed structure to be opened to allow Hindus to worship there. This angered the Muslim community, which formed the Babri Masjid Action Committee in protest. They felt that government did not do enough to maintain status quo at the controversial structure.
Three years later, in 1989, Gandhi allowed Hindus to perform shilanayas (ground breaking ceremony) at an undisputed site near the disputed structure. Gandhi was succeeded by his friend-turned-foe V.P. Singh in November 1989. Singh made an abortive bid at reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims. He brought an ordinance to give government the control of 12 acres of land on which the disputed structure stood.
However, since his government was formed with the support of the BJP, he was forced to withdraw the ordinance. It was during Singh’s tenure that L.K. Advani started his rath yatra from Somnath in Gujarat in September 1990. This was followed by the withdrawal of support by the BJP a month later, leading to the fall of Singh’s 11-month government.
One of the key figures during the Singh-led National Front government was upcoming BJP leader Pramod Mahajan. He was one of the architects of Advani’s rath yatra and also traveled with him during most of the journey. This issue helped catapult Mahajan to the national level leadership of the BJP.
One of the leaders who received maximum flak for the Ayodhya issue was Narasimha Rao — since he was home minister in Gandhi’s government and was blamed for the two controversial decisions then.
This, however, was eclipsed by the turn of events when he remained PM between 1991 and 1996. Rao was blamed within his own party and outside for his failure to prevent the demolition of Babri Masjid.