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regular-article-logo Saturday, 13 April 2024

Congress not to attend Ram temple inauguration, calls it a ‘political project’

'Religion is a personal matter. But the RSS/BJP have long made a political project of the temple in Ayodhya. The inauguration of the incomplete temple by the leaders of the BJP and the RSS has been obviously brought forward for electoral gain'

Sanjay K. Jha New Delhi Published 11.01.24, 04:31 AM
Mallikarjun Kharge with party colleagues at a meeting at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday to discuss preparations for the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.

Mallikarjun Kharge with party colleagues at a meeting at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday to discuss preparations for the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. PTI picture

The Congress leadership has finally decided not to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya amidst growing opposition to the “political project” of exploiting the religious sentiments of Hindus by the RSS-BJP.

The formal statement issued by Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh said: “Last month, the Congress president and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the Leader of the Congress Party in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury received an invitation to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya to be held on January 22, 2024.”

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The statement added: “Lord Ram is worshipped by millions in our country. Religion is a personal matter. But the RSS/BJP have long made a political project of the temple in Ayodhya. The inauguration of the incomplete temple by the leaders of the BJP and the RSS has been obviously brought forward for electoral gain. While abiding by the 2019 Supreme Court judgment and honouring the sentiments of millions who revere Lord Ram, Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury have respectfully declined the invitation to what is clearly an RSS/BJP event.”

The statement issued by the main Opposition party makes three important points: 1. Religion is a personal matter 2. The RSS-BJP have turned the temple into a political project 3. The temple is not yet complete and the event has been brought forward for electoral gain.

Construction of the temple is in progress and may take two more years to complete. But the parliamentary polls are scheduled to be held in April-May this year and Modi has planned the temple inauguration to extract maximum possible electoral gains, setting the tone for the poll discourse, the Congress believes. Home minister Amit Shah had said at his public meetings during the Assembly elections last month that the BJP governments would take everybody to Ayodhya free of cost.

The Telegraph had earlier reported that the Congress was most likely to attend the ceremony because the majority of its leaders felt they were not opposed to the construction of the temple following the Supreme Court verdict. Sources had said even Sonia had indicated that the Congress should have nothing against the Ram temple. Even then, there was serious concern about the hysteria and hype created by the BJP aimed at exploiting religious sentiments for electoral gains.

There was doubtless a counterview in the party that believed attending the ceremony would mean endorsement of Modi’s “illegitimate” political tactics to reduce the temple to a political weapon.

There was an attempt to create an impression that he was solely responsible for the construction of the temple and all other issues were irrelevant. This section of the Congress believed that the Opposition’s presence at the event would accord legitimacy to the government’s actions.

This view slowly gained supremacy as the four shankarcharyas refused to attend the inauguration. They not only asserted that the ceremony was not according to religious norms because the temple was still incomplete, but also raised objections about the political dominance over the religious event. The shankaracharyas began airing their views over the past three-four days, influencing the thinking in the Congress.

While the CPM has already rejected the invitation, leaders like Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav have also indicated their unease over the past couple of days. While Mamata publicly said Modi was using the temple as an election gimmick, Akhilesh refused to accept an invitation from VHP officials, saying he does not even know them. Uddhav Thackeray, an important member of the INDIA bloc, has not even been invited.

The Congress’s rejection of the invitation will doubtless give the BJP a political issue and the Prime Minister himself is expected to lead the attack from the front. The Congress is struggling to fight the BJP’s false propaganda of the Opposition party’s “anti-Hindu attitude”, but the decision to stay away from the January 22 ceremony will give fresh ammunition to the Sangh Parivar.

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