Former Union Minister Sharad Pawar on Saturday told a leading Marathi news channel that the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute may have been resolved, had the Congress not withdrawn support from the seven-month old Chandrashekhar-led government in March, 1991. The channel quoted Pawar as saying that Chandrashekhar, elected as prime minister on November 10, 1990, had almost immediately taken up the task of resolving the dispute in an amicable manner.
According to Pawar, the former PM had informally appointed a committee comprising himself and the then Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to hold deliberations with both sides. “While I was tasked with negotiations with representatives of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, Shekhawat held talks with members of the Babri Masjid Action Committee. Later, joint meetings involving both sides were held,” Pawar was quoted as saying. Pawar has also recounted this in his autobiography — On My Terms: From the Grassroots to the Corridors of Power — published in December, 2015.
Pawar said they were almost on the verge of a solution. “The focus was on retaining the disputed site as a memorial, while land would have been allotted for construction of both the temple and the mosque,” his memoir states.
On Saturday, the news channel quoted Pawar as saying that a formula had been arrived at, wherein about 60-65 per cent of the land, excluding the disputed site, could be used for construction of a Ram temple. Further, on the condition that the site where the tomb exists was to be part of the mosque, the remaining 35-40 per cent land was to be used for construction of a mosque.
Pawar claimed that both sides had agreed in principle to this land-sharing suggestion. But just when the talks had entered the next phase, the Congress, then led by Rajiv Gandhi, withdrew support to the government, resulting in a breakdown of the talks. In his autobiography, Pawar said that the issue could have been resolved, had the Chandrashekhar government lasted for another seven months.
Meanwhile, Pawar on Saturday praised Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to become the party president soon. “He is hardworking, and understands issues. He wasn’t consistent previously, but now he has improved on that front.” Taking a dig at the ruling BJP, Pawar said, “The mood in (poll-bound) Gujarat is not in favour of the BJP. The business community feels disenchanted.” He said the outcome of the poll in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state could decide the BJP’s future.