In a short span of one-and-a-half years, then chief minister Kalyan Singh earned the sobriquet of a ‘tough administrator’. However, his tenure is remembered more for another event – demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya.
While the opposition parties held Kalyan Singh responsible for the demolition, the then director, information, Anil Swaroop, wrote in his book, ‘Ethical Dilemmas of a Civil Servant’: “Mr Singh (Kalyan Singh) was “livid and crestfallen” on December 6, 1992, when he came to know that the structure had been brought down. Mr Singh, in a telephonic talk with the then Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, had “reflected his angst against the party leadership”. He had also spoken to LK Advani, who was in Ayodhya then.
Swarup claimed that he was “the only person” with Kalyan Singh when the conversations took place.
He rose within party ranks as the OBC leader and a Hindutva mascot during the Ram Temple movement which made him the obvious choice as the first BJP chief minister of the most populous state.
BJP old-timers like Rajendra Tiwari even claim that BJP leader Dr Murli Manohar Joshi was also nursing the ambition of becoming the chief minister of UP, however, senior pracharaks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) like Kushabhau Thakre rejected any other claim citing Kalyan’s hard work as an OBC leader and the leader of Ram Temple movement.
The Sangh firmly believed that it was Kalyan’s image as a champion of Hindutva that blended with his OBC leader’s image and ultimately paved the way for BJP winning a majority in 1991 assembly polls. Riding the Ram Temple wave, BJP won 221 seats in 1991 polls.
Senior journalist Brijesh Shukla also said that Singh never wanted the structure to come down this way.
During his meetings with RSS leaders, he used to say that there was no hurry and a stable government should be the priority. “If there is a BJP government, Ram Temple would ultimately be constructed,” he had said.
“He was taking a sunbath when he was informed that the karsevaks had gone berserk at the disputed site. Singh immediately called then principal secretary, home, Prabhat Kumar and asked him to submit a report on the incident,” Shukla said.
He added that though Kalyan never wanted the December 6 incident to happen, he made it clear to Kumar that at no cost he would order firing on karsevaks.
Surprisingly, Kalyan never came up with his own version of the incident. On the evening of December 6, 1992, the party leadership asked him to step down as chief minister, sensing that the central government, led by prime minister PV Narsimha Rao, was planning to dismiss the government.
On returning from the governor’s House after tendering his resignation, Kalyan, while replying to a media query as to who was responsible for the demolition, had claimed: “Yeh itihaas tay karega (History will decide)”.
On Kalyan’s reputation as a tough administrator, Shukla said, “There were reports of clashes in a west UP district and he came to know about the role of some RSS members in the incident. Despite knowing that any action against them would draw Sangh’s ire, he directed the officials to take stern action against the guilty.”
In a meeting with RSS members, he got a dossier prepared about the role of some of the Sangh’s cadres and convinced them that his action was in the larger interest of the state.
Another senior journalist JP Shukla said Kalyan Singh never withdrew any decision. He could post any bureaucrat anywhere.
“When Kalyan Singh took over as the UP CM, he was all powerful. There was no one to oppose him. There was no murmuring around him whether inside or outside the party. This gave him the confidence to work on his terms,” Shukla said.
“However, he could not make many policy decisions as his term was short-lived,” Shukla said. Singh took over as the CM in June 1991 and resigned on December 6, 1992.