New Delhi: The Congress party seemed to be gaining the upper hand on Tuesday in the political fallout of the disclosure of the Liberhan commission report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, by managing to drive a wedge among the opposition parties.
At the same time, analysts point out, the Congress has also successfully, ahead of the elections in Jharkhand beginning Wednesday, diverted attention away from contentious issues such as rising food prices, threat of left-wing extremists and corruption scandals.
The government agreed for a discussion on the report on 1 December.
Also See Inside The Liberhan Report (Graphics)
The Liberhan report, tabled in both the houses of Parliament on Tuesday, indicted top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the demolition of the 16th century mosque, saying it was “carried out with painstaking preparations and pre-plan”.
Leaders of the BJP, including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani, are among the 68 persons found “culpable of leading the country to the brink of communal discord” by the commission.
Some of the findings were first reported in The Indian Express on 23 November, forcing the government to convene an emergency cabinet meeting to clear the action-taken report. The cabinet meet, chaired by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in the absence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is in the US on a five-day visit, decided to table the report, submitted by the commission on 30 June, after 17 years of hearing and preparation.
Ground zero: Karsewaks at the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992. Sunil Malhotra / HT
In the Rajya Sabha, the Samajwadi Party sought to distance itself from the BJP. In what is seen as an attempt to appease its Muslim support base in Uttar Pradesh, party general secretary Amar Singh and members of Parliament (MPs) from his party were engaged in a physical scuffle with BJP members, who were chanting “Jai Shri Ram” when the report was being tabled. He, along with BJP deputy leader S.S. Ahluwalia, later apologized for such conduct.
“It was a clear attempt from the Congress to deviate attention from the real issues such as food prices, cane farmers’ issues, Maoists and terrorism. The political parties in Parliament are hammering upon an irrelevant and non-issue,” said Indra Bhushan Singh, a Lucknow-based political analyst.
Bidyut Chakraborty, professor, department of political science, Delhi University, said: “The Congress seemed to have succeeded in it by dividing the Opposition by raising a non-issue.”
The Left parties, which have raised the disclosure as a violation of MPs’ privilege, remained silent in both Houses on Tuesday. Talking to media, Rajya Sabha MP and politburo member Sitaram Yechury later said: “The issue should not be deflected by the leakage. It’s (the mosque demolition) the most serious assault on modern Indian democracy. No credibility of our polity will survive if justice is not done on this.”
Graphics by Sandeep Bhatnagar / Mint