NEW DELHI, Jan 10: Worried over increasing politicisation of the issue, the Congress on Wednesday declared that it would skip the massive consecration ceremony being planned for the Ayodhya Ram Temple on January 22 which the party viewed had been reduced to a “BJP-RSS event.”
Announcing the party’s decision, the Congress general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh said religion was a personal matter of every individual while the Ram temple inauguration had been made a “political project” of the BJP and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The party said its leaders — party chief Mallikarjun Kharge, his predecessor Sonia Gandhi and the party’s Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury — who received the invitation, have humbly declined to attend the ceremony.
“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,” a statement Jairam Ramesh said.
“While abiding by the 2019 Supreme Court judgment and honouring the sentiments of millions who revere Lord Ram, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge, Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Shri Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury have respectfully declined the invitation to what is clearly an RSS/BJP event,” he added.
The party’s refusal to attend the high-profile event is expected to become the latest flashpoint between the Congress and the BJP ahead of the general election. For the BJP, which traditionally accuses the Congress of playing to minority vote bank politics to alienate the Hindu votes from the Grand Old Party, the refusal by the Congress invitees to attend ceremony would be political gold.
Several Opposition parties, including the Left and Trinamool Congress, have made it clear that they would skip the event as well, providing ammunition to the BJP.
The Samajwadi Party is undecided — while the party has turned down the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s invite, its MLAs are keen on going. Sharad Pawar said he would not need an invite and go there as and when it is “destined.” Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena UBT is yet to get an invite.
Several top politicians, athletes and celebrities were invited for the consecration ceremony. Invitations were extended to Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as well as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Other Opposition leaders that were invited for the event include Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav and Sitaram Yechury.
The building of the temple had been the centrepiece of the BJP’s political plank and its promise had contributed to the party’s meteoric rise in the 1990s. The January 22 inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attended by political leaders, industrialists, actors and other prominent personalities and the Uttar Pradesh government has declared a holiday for all the schools and colleges in the state on that day. The event — which was preceded by the inauguration of an international airport and the redeveloped railway station in the area– is generating huge interest.
The refurbished temple town is getting ready to host thousands on the big day. The event will be telecast live across the country and many places abroad.
It will also be a big day in the life of the 85-yeaar old widow Saraswati Devi of Dhanbad in Jharkhand, fondly known as “Mauni Mata,” who is set to break her 31-year old self-imposed vow of silence as the Ram temple is inaugurate on that day. She had taken the vow not to speak on the day the Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya in 1992. She took the solemn oath that she would break her silence the day a grand Ram temple was built on the sacred soil of Ayodhya. Her vow of silence is set to conclude on January 22, the auspicious day of the Ram temple’s consecration.