A Pledge at Palampur
The Ram temple is a huge spiritual achievement for crores of Indians. It is a matter of honour for Himachal Pradesh that the name of Palampur will become a part of the historic event in the making. Thirty-four years ago, between June 9-11, 1989, a pledge was taken for the construction of the Ram temple in Palampur’s Rotary Club, where the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) working committee passed the historic resolution.
I was the BJP state president for Himachal Pradesh at the time. I was very happy Palampur had been chosen, but also worried. Where were we going to make the stalwarts stay? There was no air transport in those days. We had to ferry all the leaders from Pathankot railway station to Palampur. How would we arrange the funds for hosting the three-day meet? I travelled across the district; worked hard to raise funds; formed committees for the meeting and distributed responsibilities, thereby infusing a new enthusiasm among the party workers.
I am happy that the then Congress government of the state also helped us a lot in organising this event. I had met the erstwhile CM Virbhadra Singh and discussed the event. He assured me of all possible support. We made arrangements for the leaders’ stay at Yamini Hotel, the circuit house, the rest house and the Agriculture University’s rest house. I still cannot fathom how we were able to organise a national-level event in tiny Palampur. God’s blessings and the support of the party workers helped us achieve this.
A Memorable Lunch
I made plans to invite the working committee members to my house for lunch on the second day of the meeting. I told Atal-ji (Atal Behari Vajpayee) that all the members were invited for traditional Kangri Dham cuisine at my place, where they would be served food while seated on a dari (carpet). Food would be served on platters made of leaves. Atal ji accepted the invitation with a smile.
Even today, the image of all the senior BJP leaders, including Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani and Vijaya Raje Scindia enjoying the food served in my courtyard remains fresh in my mind. Later, some members told me with a smile that they had sat on the floor to eat for the first time and they had really relished the whole experience. After this, whenever I used to attend the party’s national working committee meetings, the members would recall the working committee meeting organised at Palampur, especially the taste of Kangari Dham in the courtyard of my house.
One morning, I saw two party workers accompanying Smt Vijaya Raje Scindia to my house. I was surprised and I ran out to greet her. I learnt that she wanted to watch the serial Mahabharat, but there was no television in the circuit house where she was staying. My family members were taken by surprise, but they were very happy to welcome her.
The next day, Advani ji presented the resolution on the Ram temple and a discussion was held. Atal-ji, supporting the proposal, said that in India Ram has been the symbol of spiritualism. It was unfortunate that even after hundreds of years this temple could not be built. He said the BJP should take a pledge to not rest until the temple was built in Ayodhya. Many other leaders too participated in the debate. The resolution was discussed with much enthusiasm and it was passed.
Widespread excitement was generated among the public with regard to the temple at that time, and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) had already built public opinion on this matter.
A public meeting was organised on the last day of the working committee meet in which all the prominent leaders had to deliver speeches. Even before the start of the meeting, the Pragati Maidan ground at Palampur was full. The entire market area was also filled with people. In the history of Palampur no public meeting of this size has ever taken place, either before or after.
The BJP’s victory in the 1990 Himachal Pradesh elections is a historic one. We had contested elections with the Janata Dal in 51 seats and won in 46. Only five contestants lost.
On this January 22, many brothers and sisters of Himachal Pradesh will be lighting diyas at their homes to welcome Lord Ram. The remarkable festival taking place at Ayodhya will be reflected in their eyes. And I will be enjoying the biggest festival of my life as well.
(Translated by Kaveri Mishra)
Shanta Kumar is former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh