New Delhi: Releasing a book on late Prime Minister Narasimha Rao during whose tenure Babri mosque was demolished, Vice President Hamid Ansari on Monday said while the good that Rao did to the country lives after him, the harm too lives on and continues to extract a heavy toll.
The book "Half-Lion", authored by Vinay Sitapati, defends Rao's role at that time and seeks to debunk theories that the former Prime Minister deliberately did not act to stop the demolition.
The author also alleged that Congress was "unkind" to Rao and put the blame on him to attract Muslim votes.
In a panel discussion that followed the book release and was attended by former foreign minister K Natwar Singh, senior journalist Shekhar Gupta, columnist and foreign policy analyst C Raja Mohan and political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Sitapati argued that Rao's role was more serious in anti-Sikh riots of 1984 when he was the Home Minister and was directly responsible for taking action.
Sitapati said along with the Babri demolition, simultaneously Rao's demolition was also attempted.
Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was present among the audience, however, took strong objection to the charge his party tried to "demonise" Rao to attract Muslim votes and rued that Rao did not act in time to prevent demolition.
"We tried to persuade the Prime Minister to wake up to the danger and the man refused to wake up to the danger," he said.
Releasing the book, Ansari said two of its sections relating to the management of Parliament and to the demolition of Babri Masjid would invite commentary.
Quoting extensively from the book, he said, "The first was a nightmare by any standard. The Congress was around 10 seats short of a majority. The Opposition was split between a right- wing BJP and a left-wing National Front. The Prime Minister was perceived to be weak. So his focus was on wide ranging consultations with the opposition to ascertain issues and seek a consensus on the parliamentary agenda.
"This was facilitated by the extensive personal contacts he had developed over years. The nemesis came with the trust vote of July 26, 1992. Survival at all cost was the government's objective. Unethical tactics were resorted to. These were eventually also found to be beyond the pale of law. The author's judgement is unequivocal that it it was the worst political decision of Narasimha Rao's career."