Narasimha Rao, the man Cong blames for Babri demolition

Narasimha Rao

The Supreme Court on Saturday settled the decades-old dispute over the Ram Janma Bhoomi issue, but the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, 27 years back, had wiped out the Congress' carefully crafted social matrix in the Gangetic plains where it is still struggling to make a come back.

The demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, during the tenure of the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, alienated the Muslims, traditional supporters of the Congress, from the party.

The post-demolition period was also the toughest time Rao had to face in his tenure as prime minister as knives were out for him from leaders of the Hindi heartland such as Arjun Singh and a few others, who felt that the prime minister was hell-bent on finishing off the Congress in northern India.

But some deft political manoeuvring helped Rao quell the anger against him within the party for the time being and put up a brave face in the troubled times. In a bid to assuage the feelings of Muslims, Rao declared that he would re-build the Babri Masjid at the same place, an assurance that drove away the upper caste supporters of the party in the region.

This was the period that saw the rise of caste-based parties in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with the Congress being pushed to the margins. In 2009, there was some silverling for the Congress as Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav joined hands with senior BJP leader and former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, under whose watch the Babri Masjid was demolished.

Congress managed to win as many as 21 seats out of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections that year. However, lack of strong local leaders proved to be a stumbling block in the revival of the party's fortunes, which took a downward turn after the ascendance of Narendra Modi in national politics.

Rao, whose tenure saw the government usher in landmark economic reforms, was sidelined by the Congress after the party's loss in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. Rao died on December 9, 2004, with the Congress even refusing permission to keep his dead body in state at the party headquarters.

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