Ayodhya verdict: Advani’s arrest changed the discourse

Veteran BJP leader LK Advani

Barely seven months after he became the Chief Minister of Bihar for the first time in March 1990, Lalu Prasad took a bold decision that many veterans would not have dared to do so in those turbulent times.

Precisely on October 23, 1990, Lalu rang up the then Prime Minister VP Singh and took him into confidence about the possible arrest of veteran BJP leader LK Advani, who was then spearheading the Ram temple movement and had entered Bihar in his air-conditioned chariot. Advani’s Man Friday Pramod Mahajan was also accompanying him.

Lalu asked the DM of Samastipur, RK Singh, a no-nonsense IAS officer, to detain Advani and keep him under house arrest at a ‘ramnik-sthal’ (a picturesque spot) in Masanjore, some 35 kilometers from Dumka (then part of undivided Bihar, now in Jharkhand).

A helicopter was kept ready for Advani and Mahajan to be flown to Masanjore. As the arrest/detention of Advani spread like a wild-fire, the kar-sewaks became hugely agitated and threatened to disturb communal peace during the festive period of October/November 1990.

But Lalu remained unperturbed by the threats issued by BJP, VHP, and other Hindu outfits. RK Singh, who later went on to become India’s Home Secretary, before becoming a Union Minister in the Narendra Modi regime, completed his task (to detain Advani and Mahajan) meticulously. 

"Throughout the night, my colleagues in the Water Resources Department, right from the junior engineer to senior officials, worked overtime to refurbish the Masanjore Inspection Bungalow (IB) where Advani and Mahajan were kept under house arrest. Elaborate security was made at the guest house. Apart from the Deputy Commissioner of Dumka, RK Singh personally kept a tab on each and every step and warned every official ‘if there is any lapse by anyone, I will not spare him’. Both Advani and Mahajan stayed there for few days before being flown back,” reminisces retired superintending engineer, P C Choudhary, who was then the executive engineer at Dumka and under whose jurisdiction was the Masanjore IB.

“The moment Advani was arrested in Bihar, Vajpayee drove to Rashtrapati Bhavan and withdrew support to VP Singh Government, which collapsed even before it could complete its one year in office. This, in turn, had three cascading effects: First, the entire political discourse in the country changed. Secondly, the BJP grew by leaps and bounds after this episode. And third, Lalu became the undisputed messiah of Muslims and went on to rule Bihar for 15 years,” argued Congress legislator Prem Chandra Mishra.

Ironically, at a time when an apex court judgement on Ayodhya has come, the original hero of Ram temple movement, Advani, has been ‘forcibly retired’, while another hero (who ordered arrest), Lalu, is cooling his heels in Ranchi jail.

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