The Samajwadi Party (S.P.) led by Mulayam Singh Yadav has consistently championed the rights of Muslims in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute. During the recent confrontation in Parliament, S.P. members were in the forefront against the Bhar atiya Janata Party. However, amid the week-long commotion, there were suggestions in political circles in New Delhi that the latest controversy had taken Mulayam Singh Yadav and his party by surprise. According to them, the Congress(I) wanted to upstage the S.P. on the Babri Masjid issue and so kept its plan to raise the issue in Parliament a secret. But Mulayam Singh is confident that the Congress(I)'s "new-found interest" will not steal the S.P.'s thunder. Excerpts from an interview he gave Venkite sh Ramakrishnan:
The dispute relating to Ayodhya has once again dominated the national political agenda. How do you see its short-, medium- and long-term ramifications?
Many things have come up in the present controversy. First and foremost, it has revealed the real intentions of the Sangh Parivar. For all the BJP's pretensions of having abandoned the Hindutva agenda and turned secular and endless talk about nationalism and social harmony, it has been proved that its primary objective is to pursue communal politics. The controversy has also helped unravel (Prime Minister) Vajpayee's liberal mask. We have been warning the secular parties with the NDA, such as the Telugu Desam Party, the Trinamul Congress and the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), not to be taken in by Vajpayee's and the BJP's liberal theatrics. We only hope that in the interests of the nation these parties have realised at least by now the truth behind t he BJP's posture of tolerance. They should lose no time to extricate themselves from the BJP's clutches and bring down the government. The latest developments will have serious repercussions in the medium and long term. On the one side, the VHP and the B ajrang Dal have announced their decision to go ahead with the temple construction. They have said no law or court can stop them. Clearly, we are being guided into a state of lawlessness by the principal party of the government itself.
What do you see as the S.P.'s role in the emerging context?
I am sure that nobody has any doubt as to what the S.P.'s role would be. We have fought the RSS' (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) fascism tooth and nail in the past and will continue to do so. We will uphold the basic tenets of the Constitution, such as sec ularism and socialism, and protect constitutional values. In fact, it is the duty of all secular parties to stand steadfast in this fight. Unfortunately, many of our secular friends do not have enduring convictions. In order to make quick gains and get o n to some chair, they compromise with the RSS fascists and cause grave misfortunes to the country and its people.Whom do you have in mind?
Everybody knows who I am pointing at. Parties like the Congress(I), the Bahujan Samaj Party, and the TDP and leaders such as Ram Vilas Paswan and George Fernandes. They all mouth secular platitudes, but when it comes to real action, they let the people d own and join hands with communalists.
But the Congress(I) has never joined hands with the BJP.
I said communalists, not specifically the BJP. Of course the BJP is communal, but there are others too. The Congress(I) has joined hands several times with the insidious RSS, and for all you know could be still doing so. Who opened the gates of the Babri Masjid and allowed Hindu worship? Was it not Rajiv Gandhi, who presided over the shilanyas in 1989, playing the Hindu card blatantly? Was this not an attempt to capture power by compromising with Hindu communalists? Obviously, you can never trust fully the Congress(I)'s commitment to secularism.
There is the impression that you are worried about the Congress(I) hijacking the Babri Masjid slogan from your party. The Congress(I) first raised the issue in Parliament this time and the S.P. had to play a supporting role.
Nothing of that sort. In fact, I welcome the Congress(I)'s new-found interest in raising the issue. It will do a lot of good to the party. And no force on earth can take away from the S.P. its credentials as the champion of secularism. Apart from the S.P ., only the Left parties have been consistent in fighting for communal harmony and secularism. Our commitment is known to the people and is time-tested. We do not have to keep scores in Parliament to emphasise our secular trustworthiness.