VP had almost solved Ayodhya imbroglio
Kishore Kunal is known as much for his impeccable integrity as for streamlining the functioning of various temples in Bihar.
When he was in the IPS, the mere mention of his name used to send shivers down the criminals’ spine. A Gujarat cadre officer, who served in Bihar for more than 20 years in different capacities, right from Senior SP of Patna to IG, CISF, Kishore Kunal is known as much for his impeccable integrity as for streamlining the functioning of various temples in Bihar.
Having opted for VRS in 2001, Kunal, as chairman of the Bihar State Religious Trust Board, has today virtually turned Bihar temples into money-spinners. No wonder, a cancer hospital, an eye institute which is an extension of Shankar Netralaya of Chennai, and various schools are being run under the aegis of Mahavir Mandir Trust. And all this with the offerings from lakhs of devotees across the state.
The man, who has the rare distinction of having worked closely with three Prime Ministers, V P Singh, Chandra Shekhar and P V Narasimha Rao, took time off from his hectic schedule to talk exclusively with Abhay Kumar of Deccan Herald.
Kunal dwelt at length on various issues ranging from his stint as a member of Ayodhya cell in the PMO, as an OSD in MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs), besides his experience as a vice-chancellor of a Sanskrit university. Kunal also shed light on how he had tightened the noose around the much-revered Asharam Bapu who, he says, has usurped property worth Rs 2 crore in Patna. Excerpts:
Deccan Herald: Asharam Bapu is a widely respected man, and has a fan following across the globe. Why have you charged him with forgery?
Kishore Kunal: The irony is that the man who gives sermons to lakhs of people on various TV channels, is quite the opposite in real life. I know him since 1978 when I was the DCP of Ahmedabad. In Patna itself, he has forcibly occupied land and property worth Rs 2 crore in Kadamkuan area where his ashram runs in an “unlawful” manner. The 13-kattha land of his ashram actually belongs to Bhisma Das Thakurbari. We have served a second notice on him to vacate the premises. His response is awaited.
DH: There are many illegal things going on in various temples…
KK: (Interrupts) That is why I am here to check such malpractices. As chairman of the Bihar State Religious Trust Board, I have identified and punished various mahants who have been found to be womanisers or have embezzled temple funds worth crores.
DH: Your no-nonsense approach fetched you a posting in MHA and then PMO.
KK: True. I was asked to come over to Delhi in June 1990 and be a part of the team which was negotiating with the VHP and the Babri Masjid Action Committee for an amicable solution to the Ayodhya imbroglio.
DH: But those talks remained futile?
KK: V P Singh had almost solved the problem. I was privy to the strategy worked out in October 1990, but then Lalu’s order to arrest Advani in Bihar poured cold waters on our plan. I remember, Bukhari, too, expressed the desire that Advani’s arrest should be deferred as he genuinely wanted that VP should continue as PM till a solution was arrived at. But after Advani’s arrest, the BJP immediately pulled the rug.
DH: You were retained by the Chandra Shekhar regime to carry on the negotiations.
KK: Chandra Shekhar, contrary to the general perception, was quite focused and had his mind on this vexed issue. Tragically, two senior politicians who were also governors of two different states played the spoilsport. I won’t name them, as they are no more.
DH: Why then did Narasimha Rao opt for your services to broker peace between the VHP and Bukhari?
KK: It was Naresh Chandra in Rao’s team who had heard me talk tough when Vinod Chandra Pande was the Cabinet Secretary. I had rebuked two senior-most VHP members in MHA office when they told me “Hum Hindu Rashtra banane ki baat kar rahe hai, aur aap mandir banane ka formula bata rahe hai”.
KK: My neutral stance stood me in good stead. This is precisely why the then Defence Minister Sharad Pawar, who was working as Rao’s pointsman to resolve Ayodhya tangle in November 1992 asked me to rush to his place. But after Kalyan Singh went back on his words, which he had pledged during the NIC meet and gave the karsevaks ample time to carry out their agenda, there was nothing much left to be done.
DH: Further talks on Ayodhya now?
KK: Unfortunately, the Vajpayee government never sought my services. So I was back in Bihar as DIG, CISF. However, I shifted to Gujarat in March 2000 and took VRS in May 2001 after serving there as ADG (Prisons).
DH: How come you were made a Vice-Chancellor in Lalu raj?
KK: This impression needs to be dispelled. Actually, I was appointed by Bihar Governor V C Pande, with whom I worked closely in Delhi when he was the Cabinet Secretary during VP’s regime. But I must admit that neither Rabri Devi nor her Education Minister ever interfered in my work.
DH: As chairman of the Bihar Religious Trust Board, you turned the Mahavir Mandir into a cash cow.
KK: This is just one example. From Rs 11,000 in 1987, this mandir has now shown a profit of Rs 3.4 crore. After meeting the expenses of religious rituals, I use the surplus fund for running hospitals and schools.
DH: With immense popularity, have you ever thought of entering Parliament as a Lok Sabha member?
KK: Since 1984 to 2004, I have received several such proposals. But I have always turned down the offer, as most of my ambitions have been fulfilled. The only wish unfulfilled is not having solved the Ayodhya imbroglio. That I will do some day.