New Delhi: None of the five faces of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1980s and 90s — Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar — will attend Wednesday’s Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan (ground breaking) ceremony in Ayodhya.
But while Singh, Bharti and Katiyar featured on the invitees’ list for the ceremony, veteran BJP leaders Advani and Joshi’s names weren’t even on it, leading to questions about why they were left out.
Former deputy prime minister Advani was one of the central figures of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement — his 1990 Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya is cited as the catalyst that turned it into a mass movement, and eventually led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, as well as the rise of the BJP as a national political powerhouse. Joshi, meanwhile, was the president of the BJP when the masjid was demolished.
The question of age
Champat Rai, general secretary of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, said at a press conference Monday that age was a factor behind Advani not being invited — he said due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people above the age of 90 were advised to stay away. Advani is 92.
However, that does not answer why Joshi, who is 86, is not on the invitees’ list, but former UP CM Kalyan Singh, 88, is.
Rai had said, “we have requested Kalyan Singh ji not to come due to age, and he agreed”, adding that “we spoke to both Advani ji and Murli Manohar Joshi ji. They expressed their inability to come on their own”.
However, sources close to Advani insisted that he had not received any formal or informal invite or phone call from any quarter until Monday night.
The fact is that Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust chairman Mahant Nritya Gopal Dass, though much younger than the trio of BJP leaders, is also 82 years old, but will be present on the main dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
‘They were on original list’
Sources in the Vishva Hindu Parishad also told ThePrint that Champat Rai was supposed to call Advani and Joshi, but neither leader had received a call until Monday night.
A senior functionary of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust told ThePrint that in the original invitees’ list, both Advani and Joshi’s names were present.
“But we don’t know what happened after the list was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office. We were told that Champat Rai will call them and request them to attend the ceremony via a video link,” the functionary said.
The functionary went on to say that when both Advani and Joshi had appeared in the Babri demolition case trial via video-conferencing, they could’ve also attended the ceremony virtually.
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