Speaking to HuffPost India last month, Santosh Dubey, a Shiv Sena leader who was one of the main accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, claimed that former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was involved in the plot to demolish the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992.
This was not the first time that a kar sevak or a leader of the Hindu right had made such a claim. Last year, R.V. Vedanti, a former BJP lawmaker, told the media that Rao was involved. In 2014, Hindu right leaders said that same in a film secretly recorded by CobraPost.
Vinay Sitapati, who wrote Half Lion: How P.V. Narasimha Rao Transformed India, a biography of the former PM and Congress leader which was published in 2016, told HuffPost India there was "zero" evidence that Rao was involved in the plot. However, he adds that there is no question that Rao prioritised personal and political ambition at one of the gravest moment's in India's post-independence history, and made a serious error of judgement in trying to negotiate with the Hindu right instead of imposing President's Rule in Uttar Pradesh.
As the 26th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid approaches, the demand for a Ram Temple is gathering steam once again. Sitapati spoke to HuffPost India about why rumours of Rao's involvement in the plot started and still persist, the Congress's role in singling him out as the villain in the tragedy, and the deeper question of prioritising secularism over electoral democracy in times of crisis.
When did rumours about Narasimha Rao's involvement in the conspiracy begin surfacing?
I would trace it back to 1998, when Sonia Gandhi comes back to the Congress after unseating Sitaram Kesri (as party president). They are grappling with two problems. The first is how to get rid of Narasimha Rao's legacy from the Congress party. Here, Narasimha Rao was not innocent at all. He was very...