New Delhi: Asaduddin Owaisi, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and member of Parliament from Hyderabad, on Monday questioned the Narendra Modi-led government's decision to confer the Bharat Ratna on former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, alleging that the BJP's most acceptable face had a role in Babri Masjid demolition.
"Have we forgotten December 5 (1992)? The same Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had said 'we are going to level the ground' (has been now given the Bharat Ratna)," he claimed.
Owaisi also raised questions on awarding Padma Vibhushan to BJP veteran leader Lal Krishna Advani.
"The same LK Advani who spread destruction in the country with his 'Rathyatra'...This could probably be the first instance of Padma Vibhushan being given to a person who is facing criminal cases," Owaisi said.
Babri Masjid had been demolished on December 6, 1992 sparking off communal riots across the country. Many senior leaders of the BJP and its affiliates including L.K. Advani, M.M Joshi, Vinay Katiyar and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders (VHP) Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Hari Dalmiya, Sadhvi Ritambrara, and Mahant Avaidyanath were charged for conspiracy in the demolition.
Vajpayee, founding member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was on March 27 conferred with Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, by President Pranab Mukherjee.
Though the decision was welcomed by a majority, voices of dissent were raised from a strong circle who claimed awarding Vajpayee with Bharat Ratna is an insult to India's Freedom Struggle.
"There are serious allegations against Atal Bihar Vajpayee for his allegedly dubious role during the Quit India movement. Against this backdrop, conferring Bharat Ratna on him will be an insult to the martyrs and the freedom struggle of the country", Advocate Shoeb Ahmed, president of the Rihai Manch said.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, BJP's senior most leader known for his excellent oratory skills and moderate image, was once referred as 'a right man in a wrong party'.
However, contrary to his image as a moderate statesman, he reportedly spewed venom against the Muslim community during his speech at the BJP conclave in Goa, barely a few months after the 2002 Gujarat riots.
"Wherever Muslims live, they don't like to live in co-existence with others; they don't like to mingle with others; and instead of propagating their ideas in a peaceful manner, they want to spread their faith by resorting to terror and threats", he was quoted as saying.
Even as prime minister, some of Vajpayee's decisions were highly controversial. One was the famous surrender to the IC-814 hijackers and releasing dreaded terrorist Masood Azhar in return for the safety of the hostages. After the release, Azhar's outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed, carried out several attacks on our country, including the attack on Parliament in 2001.
His role in the freedom struggle of India has also been questioned not only by his critics but also by his fellow partymen.
Alleging that Vajpayee had acted as a 'police informer' during the Quit India movement in 1942, former Janata Party president and now a BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had in 1997 even urged Vajpayee to dissociate himself from the golden jubilee celebrations of the country's Independence.