New Delhi: The Congress has attacked the Ram Mandir trust for not inviting the party leadership for the temple’s bhoomi pujan (ground-breaking) programme, saying that the event has been turned into an “exclusive BJP-RSS ceremony”.
Senior party leaders also accused the BJP of stealing credit for the Ram temple, whose construction was paved by the Supreme Court’s verdict last year.
A host of senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, as well as RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi have been invited for the ceremony by the Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust.
Former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, party leaders Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Rithambhara, as well as yoga guru Ramdev have been invited for the ceremony, which will be held in Ayodhya on 5 August.
After the November verdict last year, the Congress Working Committee had passed a resolution, welcoming the judgment as well as favoring the construction of the temple.
However, as reported by ThePrint, no leader of the Congress received an invitation by the trust — not even party president and Rae Bareli MP Sonia Gandhi. Only one member from the opposition has been invited — BSP MP Ritesh Pandey, who represents the Ambedkar Nagar constituency in Ayodhya.
“Forget courtesy to any leader, people from across the political spectrum should have been invited just as a courtesy to lord Ram,” said senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid.
“This is the BJP’s unveiling of political ambition in a matter of faith. If it was about faith, they would not have been choosy, they would have included everyone in the invitations,” Khurshid added.
‘Trust close to BJP-RSS, stealing credit for mandir’
Other party leaders hit out at the trust and said that its functionaries are close to the Modi government.
“This was a public movement, so why should politics creep into it now that the temple is finally getting constructed? The movement found its genesis even well before RSS came into existence,” said Digvijaya Singh, Rajya Sabha member and former CM of Madhya Pradesh.
Hitting out at the trust, Singh said that it’s “full of VHP and RSS activists”.
“The way the invitations have been sent, it has been done in order for BJP to steal the credit for this entirely,” he added.
Singh had earlier questioned the exclusion of members from Hindus sects of Shankaracharyas, Akhara Parishads and Ramanandi Sampradaya, who were originally part of the Ram Temple movement, from the temple trust.
‘Will not go even if invited’
Senior party leader Anil Shastri, meanwhile, told ThePrint he would not go to the ceremony even if he is invited.
“It has become a BJP event. Why should I participate in a BJP event? So now, even if I am invited, I will not go,” said Shastri, son of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.
A Congress spokesperson said that “this is not the temple’s inauguration”. “It is more like RSS-VHP’s office inauguration. The real foundation stone for the temple was laid in 1989 itself,” he added.
He was referring to the shilanyas or the foundation stone laying ceremony at the temple site in Ayodhya in 1989 by the VHP.
‘Don’t want any more mixing of religion and politics’
Despite showing their displeasure for not being invited, Congress leaders also said they wouldn’t like to “indulge in any further competition” over the temple.
“We do not want any more mixing of religion and politics. So if they haven’t invited anyone from the opposition, there is not much we can do,” Digvijaya Singh said.
Khurshid said protesting over not being invited would be “playing into the hands of the BJP”.
“We should not have a second round of competition between the BJP and the opposition on the Ram Mandir issue now. We have gracefully accepted the judgment and the court’s is the last word,” he added. “We need to move on in time.”