Observing that BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not a culprit in the demolition of the Babri mosque, CPI leader A.B. Bardhan on Tuesday said former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao also could not be exonerated on the issue.

"By 12-o-clock, Rao knew everything on the demolition of the Babri Masjid and he was sleeping. He cannot be exonerated," Mr. Bardhan said.

He claimed it was a 'major lacuna' on the part of the Liberhan Commission not to indict the Narasimha government and should be 'corrected'.

Speaking about Mr. Vajpayee, he told reporters "I do not think Vajpayee was a culprit. This is my personal view. I have not seen what is written in the report. But I hope Vajpayee was not a culprit."

Noting that while senior BJP leaders like Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti were seen celebrating after the demolition, Mr. Bardhan said Mr. Vajpayee was not among them.

He said some BJP leaders were even shown on television chanting "Ek dhakka aur do, Babri masjid gira do."

The CPI veteran said the people who took the law into their own hands must be punished. "If somebody commits murder, the law of the land must be applied against him or her."

On the demand for a CBI probe into the alleged leak of the commission's report before being tabled in Parliament, Mr. Bardhan said, "there is no need for it. The commission took 17 years to give its report. I do not think another three years should be spent on a CBI probe."

CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat said all persons responsible for the demolition should be identified and punished.

"The dereliction of duty in the then central government must also be part of the commission's report," Mr. Karat said.

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