Mumbai: The Shiv Sena had been unusually silent ahead of the Ram Temple ground-breaking ceremony in Ayodhya set for Wednesday, but on the day of the bhoomi pujan, the party is going all out to claim credit.
On Wednesday, Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana carried a front-page advertisement with the words, “Jai Shree Ram”, and a photo of party founder Bal Thackeray with a statement next to it that read, “He jyani kele tyancha mala abhiman ahe” (I am proud of those who did this.”
The quarter-page advertisement, issued by Milind Narvekar, party secretary and personal assistant to Shiv Sena president and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, also has images of CM Thackeray and his son, cabinet minister Aaditya Thackeray.
Inside, an editorial on the Ram Temple bhoomi pujan quoted Bal Thackeray’s words right at the top: “Babri padli, ti padnarya Shiv Sainikancha mala abhiman ahe” (I am proud of the Shiv Sainiks who razed Babri).
Saamana editorials are usually penned by the paper’s executive editor, Sanjay Raut, but are known to be the voice of the party president.
At the same time, Shiv Sena leaders have been posting messages on social media about the bhoomi pujan with the hashtag #DhanyawadBalasaheb (Thank you, Balasaheb). The party has also tweeted this from the unofficial account of Uddhav Thackeray, as well as from the outfit’s official handle.
Raut, who is also Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP, has even called the bhoomi pujan “the completion of Balasaheb’s dream”.
The Shiv Sena has also indirectly taunted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its former ally, saying several people who contributed significantly to the Ram Janmabhoomi cause have been left out of the invitee list to ensure nobody else gets the credit. The list of invitees does not include any Shiv Sena leader.
‘Bhoomi pujan has become personality centric‘
The Shiv Sena, which is now ruling Maharashtra in a coalition with its former ideological and political rivals, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), is caught in a bind — whether to strongly display its hard stance on Hindutva, which appeals to its core voters, or appear more in harmony with its new allies.
The duality has been seen in the party’s actions several times in the seven months that it has formed the three-party Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi.
For instance, CM Thackeray had in December expressed regret over mixing politics and religion by partnering with the BJP. However, in March, as his government completed 100 days, Thackeray went to Ayodhya, reiterating his party’s commitment to the Ram Mandir construction and to Hindutva.
However, the Shiv Sena, which has time and again projected itself as the party that’s more committed than the BJP to Hindutva, is also afraid of the latter stealing its Hindutva mandate and swaying its core voters.
In a dig at the BJP, the Shiv Sena in the Saamana editorial said, “The bhoomi pujan is a celebration for the country and for all Hindus, but it has now become personality-centric and party-centric.”
The party added, “The entire case was lost in dates, but Justice Ranjan Gogoi took Ram out of that mess and gave a clear verdict in favour of the Ram temple. Ranjan Gogoi should have featured somewhere in the list of special invitees, but neither is he there, nor is Shiv Sena, which wrecked the very foundation of the Babri Masjid. This is stubbornness to ensure that nobody else should get the credit for the Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan.”
‘Many contributed to the Ram Temple’
The Shiv Sena said members of outfits such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh faced bullets for the creation of the Ram Mandir and many of them were martyred, too. Besides, many others contributed to the temple in their own ways.
“Although parties such as Congress, Samajwadi Party and Leftist parties have a different ideology regarding the politics of the Ram Mandir, many of its leaders wanted the temple to take shape. It is important to respect the sentiments of all these people,” the party added.
The Shiv Sena also reminded Saamana‘s readers that it was during the tenure of former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao that the Babri Masjid fell, and that he let it be completely demolished.
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy recently praised former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao for their contribution to the Ram Temple and said the incumbent PM, Narendra Modi, did not have any role to play in it.
“He is not ready to give the credit to PM Modi, but one must accept that it was during Modi’s time that Ram Mandir got out of the litigation mess and today’s golden moment has dawned. If that wasn’t the case, Rajan Gogoi wouldn’t have become a Rajya Sabha member after retirement,” the party said in the Saamana editorial. “In the struggle for Ram Mandir, many have made their contributions in several ways like this,” it added.
The Shiv Sena also lamented that Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister in December 1992 when the Babri Masjid was demolished, is not among those on the dais Wednesday.
“He resigned immediately after the Babri Masjid was razed. He gave up his government for the creation of the Ram Mandir, but he is not on the stage for this golden occasion. But the hope is that he should at least be there in the invite list,” the party said.
The editorial added that the BJP and the Shiv Sena scaled political heights catching the thread of Hindutva that the Ram Temple issue had started, with leaders such as L.K. Advani and Bal Thackeray keeping the Hindutva flame alive.
“Nobody can indulge in politics while stamping on the chest of the country’s Hindus,” the Shiv Sena said. “With the bhoomi pujan of the Ram Mandir, the politics around the issue should hopefully be over for good. Lord Ram must also be wishing for the same.”
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.