The Congress was guarded in its response to the Supreme Court order Wednesday restoring criminal conspiracy charges against BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Congress leaders appeared apprehensive about the fallout of the verdict as it has brought the Ram temple issue back into focus. The Left parties, in contrast, were aggressive in demanding the resignation of Bharti.
Although individual Congress leaders showed initial signs of jubilation at the order, with some calling for Bharti’s resignation, the party gave a carefully crafted official reaction by the end of the day. The sense in the party was that the BJP could utilise the issue to “polarise” and the party “should not walk into the trap”.
The defeat in UP has triggered a debate within the Congress on the need for nuancing its pronouncements on “potentially divisive” issues. A section of the Congress leaders had been arguing the party should try to dispel what they called a “perception” that it has a pro-Muslim tilt.
At the AICC briefing, the party did not make any suo motu statement on the court verdict, nor did it demand Bharti’s resignation upfront. In response to questions, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said, “When the Supreme Court has given a detailed judgment, then there is nothing more to add or subtract. The Supreme Court has said that law is for binding on all and we believe the law should take its course.”
Asked about calls for Bharti’s resignation, he said, “The prime minister has been waxing eloquent about morality. He talks about morality all the time. So after this judgment, his words would be now put to test. We leave it to the wisdom of the prime minister… on how he morally reacts to the Supreme Court’s detailed judgment.”
The Congress, however, reacted sharply when asked about Bharti’s remarks that Sonia Gandhi was at Rajiv Gandhi’s home when the 1984 Sikh riots happened and her question whether that means Sonia was part of the conspiracy. “The Supreme Court decision has rattled the honorable minister. And therefore she is trying to shoot from the hip and I don’t think such a reprehensible and preposterous remark needs to be even dignified with a comment,” Tewari said.
Reacting to the judgment earlier in the day, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala had said, “The Supreme Court has spoken. Let justice be done and the guilty punished.” Congress leader Kapil Sibal expressed satisfaction with the order. “As far as other issues are concerned, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is always very committed to the cause of morality,” Sibal said. “Those are his public pronouncements. Occasionally, he forgets morality when it comes to his ministers. Let us hope he doesn’t forget this time.”