Fotedar, the only minister to resign after demolition
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Makhan Lal Fotedar was the only member of the P.V.Narasimha Rao Cabinet who told the then Prime Minister in no uncertain terms that he had to accept the moral responsibility for the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya by Kar Sewaks owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar, reports Pankaj Vohra.delhi Updated: Nov 25, 2009 01:16 IST
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Makhan Lal Fotedar was the only member of the P.V.Narasimha Rao Cabinet who told the then Prime Minister in no uncertain terms that he had to accept the moral responsibility for the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya by Kar Sewaks owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar. In the presence of all his colleagues, Fotedar took repeated digs at Rao for failing to prevent the demolition at the Cabinet meetings convened on the evening of December 6, 1992 and the following day. ``You must accept moral responsibility for what has happened Mr Prime Minister’’, Fotedar said.
Subsequently, the Prime Minister accepted his resignation thereby paving the way for a divide within the Congress ranks some years later leading to his defeat in the 1996 Lok Sabha polls.
Incidentally, Fotedar was never summoned by the MS Liberhan commission and his statement was never recorded despite the fact that he was the only one who had vehemently protested and was in position to throw some light on Rao’s role in the demolition incident.
Recalling the events, Fotedar who was also political adviser to late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi said that he had warned Rao as early as June about the designs of the Sangh Parivar. He had counseled him to engage the Sangh Parivar elements in a dialogue in order to find a peaceful solution to the Ayodhya issue as a result of which a period of 100 days was fixed to mutually resolve matters. At the expiry of the 100 days and with no solution in sight, the Sangh elements declared that they would march to Ayodhya on December 6th.
``On December 2nd or 3rd, I told Rao that there was apprehension that the Kar Sewaks may do something and it would be better if the government was dismissed and Presidents rule imposed. To which Rao replied that nothing of that sort was going to happen’’. On December 6th at about 11.30 a.m., I got a call that the Kar Sewaks had attacked the Mosque. Half an hour or so later, PTI Bureau Chief Harihar Swarup confirmed that the structure stood demolished. I called up Rao and told him to deploy armed forces there and dismiss the government before riots broke out. Otherwise, you will be the one to be blamed. He did not do anything’’.
Fotedar said that he was anguished and sort an appointment with then President Shankar Dayal Sharma. He was called in at 5.30 p.m. But five minutes earlier, he got another call informing him of a Cabinet meeting at 6 p.m. ``In any case I went to Rashtrapati Bhawan and found the President weeping like a child. He asked me as to what has PV done. The President said that he had spoken to Governor B.Satya Narayan Reddy and got the impression that he had been advised against the imposition of President’s rule by the PM. As I was about to leave, the Governor called up Dr Sharma and informed him that he was imposing the President’s rule since Chief Minister Kalyan Singh had tendered his resignation’’.
Fotedar said that he reached the Cabinet meeting about 15 to 20 minutes late and on seeing everyone quiet, he sarcastically asked as to why was everyone silent. Had any tragedy struck at which point a colleague intervened to say that Babri Mosque had been demolished and did he not know that? I looked at Rao and told him that he was responsible. ``I also told him that the Chief Minister had resigned after the demolition and he had no option but to impose President’s rule. Till then no one knew about Kalyan Singh’s resignation. Rao asked his Cabinet Secretary to inquire and ten minutes later, he confirmed the resignation. I again told Rao that if anything happens in Ayodhya, he was going to be responsible. No one else spoke but some ministers including me cried’’.
The next day, another Cabinet meeting was convened at 8 am where he again asked Rao to accept moral responsibility. He said that none of the Cabinet colleagues said anything to Rao or to me.
Subsequently, he gave in his resignation and the same was accepted. After that he vowed to throw Rao out and formed the Tewari Congress. Arjun Singh quit in 1995 and along with N.D.Tewari and some others ensured that Rao was defeated in 1996. ``We replaced him with Sitaram Kesri and finally paved the way for Sonia Gandhi to take over the reins of the Congress. Rao was as much responsible for the demolition as also leaders of the Sangh Parivar.