Interview with Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's conduct in the face of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's (VHP) offensive has won him all-round praise. He ordered Ayodhya to be turned into a fortress, making it out of bounds for kar sevaks. Then, within hours of foiling the VHP's avowed programme on October 17, he not only ordered the release of all those arrested, but also allowed the VHP to hold the meeting at that very spot the next day. He even got his officials to escort VHP general secretary Pravin Togadia to Ayodhya to attend the meeting.
"I did not allow their programme on October 17 because they had declared that they would mount an attack on that day. But once they surrendered, I allowed them, only after ensuring that there will be no violence," Mulayam Singh told Purnima S. Tripathi in an interview. All praise for the "cooperative role" of the Centre, Mulayam Singh said it had respected the federal structure of Indian democracy. Excerpts:
* The first and foremost question at this juncture is, why did you allow the VHP to go ahead with darshan and hold its meeting at that very spot (Karsevakpuram) the next day?
I could not have allowed them on October 17 because they had declared to mount an attack on that day. But once their programme flopped and they surrendered to me, I allowed them. But only after ensuring that there will be no trouble. See, there was no violence. The kar sevaks were allowed darshan and also allowed to hold the meeting.
* Did you have doubts about the programme passing off peacefully?
Yes, I had my doubts. I was apprehensive that trouble-makers could mingle with kar sevaks and create problems, leading to violence. It was an agni pariksha (test by fire) for my government, and I can proudly say that the government has come out with flying colours. There was absolutely no confusion in the official machinery about the action to be taken.
* Are you not worried that the VHP will keep up its pressure and come back with something else?
Let them try anything. After this programme flopped, even they know they don't have people's support. So I'm not worried now.
* But you could have allowed the programme on October 17 itself, which would have spared the State so many days of tension? After all, a temple cannot be built in one day and all they were asking for was darshan and meeting.
That was not possible because the VHP is not reliable. They could have gone to any extent to create trouble. There was a real danger of violence. I had to be careful. My fears proved true by those sporadic incidents of violence. Any laxity in security would have proved costly. The permission for the second day's programme took them by surprise and it helped me pre-empt their plans. If their intention was clear they would have accepted my offer of holding the meeting at Saket College. I had also promised them that kar sevaks would be allowed darshan under our control, but they refused. This means they had other designs.
* You had urged the Centre to persuade the VHP to withdraw its programme. Did you receive the help you were seeking?
The Centre was very cooperative. It was constantly in touch with the State government, keeping an eye on the situation, but it respected the federal structure of democracy and did not put any pressure on the State government. I must also thank the judiciary and the media, which played a very constructive role throughout this crisis. I would also like to thank the people and the bureaucracy in Uttar Pradesh. The people because they did not support the VHP's programme and the bureaucracy for acting with firmness, yet showing restraint.
* Did you receive the required support from your allies?
They were all with me on this. The Left parties were the most generous in their support. Even others supported me. They have all been calling up to congratulate me on the peaceful culmination of the programme.
* But Ajit Singh? Did he also speak to you? There has been nothing from him in the media.(Does not reply, waves his hand and smiles.)
* There have been charges of you being in connivance with the BJP in first not allowing the VHP and then allowing it to go ahead with its programme?
(Laughs.) I did what I thought was right. If the BJP appears to be agreeing with me, I'm happy for that. That will solve many problems the country is facing today.