The Congress finally admitted on Thursday that former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was denied a ticket for the 1998 Lok Sabha election to check the public anger against him for failing to protect the Babri Masjid.
“There was perceptible anger against Rao and the then (Congress) government over the demolition. It is my opinion Rao was denied a ticket to control the anger against him and to keep him away from the public scene …The then Congress president Sitaram Kesri publicly apologized (for failure to protect the Babri Masjid),’’ said spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed.
The clean chit given to Rao is likely to figure in the debate on the Liberhan Commission report in the Lok Sabha on December 1 and in the Rajya Sabha on December 7. It is still unclear whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will intervene in the discussion or Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi — who had said that the demolition would not have happened if a Gandhi family member had been at the helm of affairs — participate in it.
In 1998 Kesri had publicly said that Rao was not being given a ticket for failing to protect the Babri Masjid. But ever since the Liberhan Commission report was tabled on Tuesday, the Congress resisted all queries about Rao’s role in the demolition.
“Liberhan Commission has not accused Rao or found him responsible directly or indirectly for the demolition and Congress has no reason to disagree with the Commission’s findings,” Ahmed said in a reiteration of the party line. In doing so, he sought to draw a distinction between failing to protect the structure and participating in its demolition.
Ahmed admitted that there was a perception of “belated action" on the Centre’s part during that time. To contain anger, the party did not give Rao a nomination. But he added: “What Rao did during his tenure is for the people to judge."