Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday said it was a "fatal political error" on the part of the Narasimha Rao government not to bring Babri Masjid under the Centre's control despite mounting evidence that it was under threat.
The former Finance Minister said he would not brush aside the incident as a mere judgemental error and that as a result of the incident, Prime Minister Rao lost the trust of the rank and file of the party.
"A lot of people had warned Narasimha Rao... The mosque was under threat. Our government had issued a statement that under no circumstances would we allow the mosque to be demolished. If necessary, we would station the military, the paramilitary forces," he said during a panel discussion on 'Narasimha Rao: The Forgotten Hero' at the Tata Literature Live festival in Mumbai.
He said the threat to the mosque was not sudden and neither was it a spontaneous action on part of 'karsevaks'.
"Stones were being carried from as far as Rameshwaram and they were travelling by trains. Whole trains were being booked. Everybody knew that lakhs of people would assemble. Threat to Babri Masjid was a real threat which had been there from at least 1987-88," he said.
Chidambaram said that Rao should have moved the paramilitary forces and the army and should have made it absolutely clear that the Babri Masjid area was under control of the Central government.
"But the failure to position the paramilitary and (the failure) to say that the area was under the control of the Central government was a fatal political error, and the consequences since then for the country have been disastrous," he said.
"The evidence was piling up everyday. We all knew that there were programmes being held to bid farewell to the karsevaks. Anyone with a political judgement could have said there was a grave danger to the mosque. Where did the pick axes, hammers come from?" he said.