The most shocking news of this week has been the front page story carried by New Delhi’s Indian Express last Wednesday (April 4). This news story had a 6-column banner headline: THE JANUARY NIGHT RAISINA HILL WAS SPOOKED. The sub-heading reads: Two Army Units moved towards Delhi without notifying Government.
If one reads the April 4 report thoroughly, and the several follow-up stories published on April 5, one would have to concede that the reports are extremely alarming and, as BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad has commented, reveal “Government-Army ties at an all time low”. TheIndian Express story this week does highlight how deep is the trust deficit pervading the Establishment circles these days. One feels relieved, however, to find that the I.E. itself has taken pains to dispel emphatically any sinister meaning being read into the story. In a box item lauding the Army Chief for his “impeccable reputation as a professional soldier”, it has said that no one “is using the ‘C’ word to imply anything other than ‘curious’.”
My friend and neighbour, Vijai Kapoor, former Lt. Governor of the Union Territory of Delhi met me and narrated to me how in 1989, following the defeat of Rajiv Gandhi’s Government, then Home Minister Buta Singh initiated a serious move to call in the army and how it was aborted.
Vijai Kapoor at that point of time was Chief Secretary of Delhi. The L.G. of Delhi then was Romesh Bhandari. When Kapoor shared with me his memories of the 1989 episode, I began to hunt for any recorded evidence of the events. I happened to lay hands on Romesh Bhandari’s autobiography given to me by the author himself ten years back. In this Bhandari recalls that he was appointed Lt. Governor in September 1988, and adds: “My tenure was fairly brief as I resigned in December, 1989 after Rajiv Gandhi was defeated in the General Elections”.
Bhandari goes on to say :
“Immediately after the results of the General Elections had been declared in 1989, it was clear that the Congress Party had fared very badly. The legal procedure of dissolving the Lok Sabha had still to be gone through. Leaders of other parties were demanding this and Rajiv Gandhi was in the process of moving the papers to Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Election Commission, however, had still to notify the results. The dissolution of the Lok Sabha can only take place immediately thereafter.”.
I forget the date, but one night I received a call from Buta Singh, who was the Home Minister, that there were rumours about lakhs of kisans from Haryana and Western UP being mobilized by Ajit Singh and others to march into Delhi and Gherao Parliament and Rashtrapati Bhavan. This was with a view to forcing Rajiv Gandhi to dissolve the Parliament without which a new Government could not be formed. Buta Singh said that Parliament was being dissolved, but there were the legal aspects I have mentioned above. He said that I must take immediate preventive measures and ensure that no law and order situation arose till then. We could not permit such an invasion of Delhi.”
“I had received no such report, I called the Commissioner of Police, Raja Vijay Karan, and asked him whether he knew anything about this. He called back after making inquiries that they had no such reports. As the Home Minister himself had mentioned this matter, I could not let the situation be as it is. I summoned an immediate meeting at my residence at 18 Akbar Road. It was attended by the Chief Secretary Vijai Kapur who is now the Lt. Governor of Delhi, the Commissioner of Police Raja Vijay Karan and his top colleagues dealing with intelligence, security etc. I also invited the officers of the Intelligence Bureau and the Home Ministry. The fear as conveyed to me by Buta Singh was discussed. Everyone said that there was no truth in what the Home Minister had heard. Mobilization of people in such large numbers could not be done in a matter of hours. If there was any such intention, our sources would have got to know about it. I fully shared the views of all who were there and said that I would tell the Prime Minister’s House and the Home Minister that there was no truth at all in the rumours. This is all that happened. Madan Lal Khurana projected this as an unsuccessful effort on my part to call in the Army. He should know better that no Governor, Lt. Governor or Chief Minister can call in the Armed Forces by himself. It has to be routed through the Defence Ministry.”
Lt. Governor Bhandari may plead innocence. But the then Union Home Minister Buta Singh cannot. That he did initiate a move to call in the army on the basis of a concocted story becomes evident from the L.G’s. own testimony.
Today is Sthapna Divas (Foundation Day) of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Exactly thirty two years back, on April 6, 1980, the BJP was founded at an all-India Convention held at the Ferozeshah Kotla Maidan IN New Delhi.
This Convention was the upshot of a resolution passed by the Janata Party’s Parliamentary Board two days earlier prohibiting so-called ‘Dual Membership’, which meant membership of the Janata Party and membership of the RSS.
The Janata Party had been formed out of the merger of four Opposition Parties – the Jana Sangh, the Congress (O), the Lok Dal and the Samajwadi Party. Most of the members of the Jana Sangh were swayamsewaks of the RSS or were associated with the RSS.
Evidently, the Dual Membership resolution was initiated by some leaders of the Janata Party who had come to the conclusion that Jana Sangh had become a liability for the Party and so the earlier this limb of the party could be amputated, the better it would be. The Parliamentary Board’s Dual Membership resolution was meant to achieve this. The ‘Dual Membership’ was strongly opposed by Shri Morarji Bhai Desai, Shri Sikander Bakht and many other Janata Party members not belonging to the Jana Sangh.
In 1980, this resolution was adopted on April 4. That year, April 4 was Good Friday. So April 6, the Foundation Day that year was Easter Sunday.
I have often recalled in my speeches the significance of these two Christian Festivals. Good Friday is believed to be the day of Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion and Easter Sunday the Day of Christ’s resurrection.
For us of the Jana Sangh, the Dual Membership resolution adopted on Good Friday was tantamount to crucifixion, and Easter Sunday, the Day BJP was launched by Shri Vajpayee a kind of a Happy Resurrection.
New Delhi, 6 April, 2012