The ghost of Liberhan Commission has finally come out after 17 years and is giving many sleepless nights to the BJP leadership including former HRD minister MM Joshi, who still feels that a grand temple dedicated to Lord Rama must be built in Ayodhya through consensus. In an exclusive interview with Swati Chaturvedi of Kahiye Janab, the saffron leader admits that BJP is in a poor state and efforts are being taken for its speedy revival.
Swati: The Liberhan Commission report, which has been tabled after 17 long years, has indicted you among others responsible for the demolition of Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. What do you have to say?
MM Joshi: First of all, I would like to say that the usage of word Babri Masjid is incorrect as it was just a structure, not a full-fledged mosque. Secondly, the seriousness of the Liberhan Commission report is itself questionable. I would not like to comment on its findings since it has indicted even those who have died two to three years before the structure was demolished, like Devraha Baba.
Swati: Your Leader of Opposition and perhaps the tallest leader of BJP at the moment, Shri LK Advani, recently said that it was the most unfortunate day of his life when the structure was demolished. On the other hand, another BJP leader Kalyan Singh, who has left the party, describes Dec 06 as the happiest day in his life. What is your reaction to this?
MM Joshi: I have always maintained that we (BJP) never expected that the structure will be demolished or something of that sort would happen. So when it actually happened, I had the same feeling which comes when something unexpected happens…
Swati: Do you accept that in those times BJP was spearheading the Ramjanma Bhumi Movement and the party was effectively playing the Hindutva card. But with the Babri Mosque demolition your party suddenly lost its main poll plank - the Ram temple issue?
MM Joshi: I totally disagree with your assertions that BJP was playing the Hindutva or Ram temple card for political gains. It was actually an issue raked up by saints, seers and the religious bodies. The BJP only supported the idea of constructing a grand temple at Ayodhya, since Lord Ram is in the centre of our religious belief and faith and that can not be denied. BJP has formally proposed that a grand temple must be built in Ayodhya either by arriving at a consensus or by introducing a law for the purpose.
Swati: Seventeen years ago, when Advani ji started his famous ‘Rath Yatra’, he garnered huge support for the cause of Hindutva. But with several ups and downs in these years, do you think the BJP has failed to take advantage of that?
MM Joshi: Look, BJP never works with an agenda of getting any political advantage. We have always maintained that the issue of Ram Temple does not pertain to a particular party. It’s the demand of the nation. Construction of the temple is important from the nation’s point of view considering the importance of Lord Rama in our lives. It is better if we all get it constructed, otherwise the party will do it by making a new law, which we have been saying for quite long. See, today or country is facing a lot of problems. It is dealing with terrorism, economic downturn, and divisions in society….
Swati: (Intercepts) It’s a very good line that you have said. At a time when the country is tackling terrorism, facing economic downturn, unemployment, how does ‘Ram’ become an issue in this scenario?
MM Joshi: That’s what I am trying to tell you how Lord Rama can help us and guides us in finding a perfect solution. Just like Lord Ram tackled the terrorist Ravana, just like he removed the divisions of society by eating berries from Shabari or cremting Jatayu.
Swati: You say that you have invited all to build a Ram temple, but when your party was in power and you had an important portfolio, you failed to do anything. Now people and to some extent VHP accuse BJP of making a joke out of the Ram Temple issue. How would you defend this?
MM Joshi: I disagree with your assertions that we played the Ram temple plank only for political mileage. We have always maintained that BJP is still committed to the construction of Ram temple. But before blaming us you need to understand the complexities of coalition politics and limitations of a coalition government. BJP was not in power on its own and we had a difference of opinion with our coalition partners on the issue of Ram temple. The construction of Ram temple was not in the common minimum programme of the NDA. But yes, I still believe that there was something that should have been done like developing Ayodhya as an ancient pilgrimage centre and utilising the undisputed land.
Swati: You are considered very close to former prime minister AB Vajpayee, who has been named in the Liberhan Commission’s report. Is he, in any way, linked with the demolition controversy?
MM Joshi: Vajpayee ji is in no way associated with the Babri Mosque demolition. It is known to all that Vajpayee ji was with the saint`s resolution to build a Ram temple at the disputed site and he had expressed his views regarding the same at various rallies. It is also a fact that Vajpayee was not present in Ayodhya on the day of demolition of the disputed structure.
Swati: In all these years, several BJP leaders have changed their stance on the Ram temple issue, which appears to be an afterthought. Why is it that the BJP has time and again played with the emotions of the common man?
MM Joshi: Look, I don’t speak on behalf of a particular individual. I represent the overall view of our party, which still says that Ram temple must be built in Ayodhya. We will not build it. It’s the saints or the religious bodies or trusts which will do that. We will only remove the impediments or hurdles in the path of doing so.
Swati: But when your leaders keep backtracking, who can be trusted. Don’t you think BJP has lost its ground through its failed ‘Weak PM, Strong Advani’ campaign?
MM Joshi: See the people of India trust BJP as a party with a great vision and sound ideology. Ram temple was not the only issue, which led to BJP’s debacle in the last polls. There were other factors like faulty ticket distribution, growing dissidence, lack of coordination from the bottom to the top level, party bickering and emergence of several camps which were responsible for our poor performance in the elections. We committed certain mistakes; we failed to connect with the masses. However, we are looking into it and all gaps will be plugged-in soon. We have changed our policies and the central leadership is trying to address the growing resentment inside the party. We will soon have a new leader and hopefully, he will run the party effectively. As far as political parties are concerned, who would dare say that a temple is not needed in Ayodhya.
Swati: But what about BJP’s “Aayaram and Gayaram” take on its very core issue.
MM Joshi: Look, I am still saying if BJP comes to power in the future, we will facilitate the construction of Ram temple.
Swati: What is your take on Jaswant Singh’s expulsion, his attack on party leaders including Advani ji?
MM Joshi: This issue has been dealt with very seriously by the party’s central leadership and the controversy has now ended. So, I would not like to comment on this. Let bygones be bygones.
Swati: Your closeness with BJP’s parent body RSS is known to every one. The RSS has recently commented on the apparent group politics in the saffron brigade. BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Venkaih Naidu, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and even Advani ji has come under RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s scanner. What about the talks of Advani ji being your biggest arch-rival?
MM Joshi: (Laughs) Advani ji has been our unanimously elected leader and he will continue to be so in future. I was the party’s general secretary when he was the president. We have worked together for a long time. The BJP is a party with certain values, it is like a family, which will sit together and rectify all that has gone wrong.
Swati: The RSS chief has just hinted that it’s the time for Advani to go, in view of this, am I talking to the next Leader of Opposition?
MM Joshi: (Laughs again) Advani ji has been formally elected the Leader of Opposition for the next five years and he is there to stay. No question of that sort arises. I have never been a part of that race.
Swati: Very well said, at least we have someone who takes the blame and accepts the challenges. Thanks for talking to us.
Adaptation by Ritesh K Srivastava