New Delhi: The conspicuous absence of one word in the Opposition parties’ reaction to the five-member Supreme Court bench’s unanimous Ayodhya verdict Saturday captured the essence of their political compulsions and dilemmas. And that word is ‘welcome’.
The opposition parties were guarded in their reaction, with the Aam Aadmi Aap (AAP) alone in “welcoming” the go-ahead for a Ram temple at the disputed site.
Most parties, including the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), said they “respected” the Supreme Court’s decision.
The first hint of this dilemma surfaced at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting held early Saturday morning at interim party chief Sonia Gandhi’s residence.
Sources in the party told ThePrint that “extra attention” was showered on how to craft a response to the verdict. A decision was finally taken that the resolution would be “short and crisp” to “ensure clarity”, they said.
‘A sensitive matter’
“This is a sensitive matter, we wanted to be extra careful,” said a leader who was present at the CWC meeting. “See, we can’t use the word ‘welcome’ because that makes us party to the dispute. That implies that we wanted this result. So, in the end, we settled on ‘respect’,” he added.
Under attack from political adversaries for its alleged minority-appeasement policies — a factor cited by senior leader A.K. Antony in an internal report on the party’s drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections — the Congress has been seeking to change this image, with former president Rahul Gandhi going on temple visits and the party projecting him as a ‘janeudhari Brahmin’.
The party has, at the same time, been careful not to alienate its core votebank among Muslims.
The Congress leader said the use of the words “secularism”, “culture”, and “Indian ethos” was discussed, but the Congress finally penned a resolution that focused on “secular values and spirit of fraternity”.
“We all sat there and tracked the latest developments,” the Congress leader said. “There was a draft response that was penned, and many words were bandied about.”
Sonia Gandhi, a second Congress leader added, asked chief party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala to read out the draft response.
The leader, however, said “respecting” the Supreme Court decision had always been the party’s stand.
Unlike some past instances where the Congress saw a virtual revolt over different issues, with members opposing the party line, there was no dissent in the room this time, the leaders said.
The final Congress statement, delivered by Surjewala, went thus, “The Supreme Court has delivered its judgment. As such, we support the building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. We ask everyone to respect the SC verdict.”
‘Respect for verdict all around’
The Congress, however, wasn’t alone in carefully wording its response.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad’s son and former Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav also tweeted that he “respected” the SC judgment.
“Now, political parties should focus on building schools, colleges and universities and hospitals,” he added.
माननीय सर्वोच्च न्यायालय के फ़ैसले का सहदय सम्मान। देश का प्रत्येक मंदिर, मस्जिद, गुरुद्वारा, चर्च हमारा ही है। कुछ भी और कोई भी पराया नहीं है। सब अपने है।
अब राजनीतिक दलों का ध्यान अच्छे स्कूल, कॉलेज, विश्वविद्यालय और अस्पताल बनाने एवं युवाओं को रोज़गार दिलाने पर होना चाहिए।
— Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) November 9, 2019
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party, meanwhile, made an appeal to maintain “peace and harmony”.
అయోధ్యలో నిర్మాణంపై తీర్పునకు కట్టుబడి ఉంటామని ఇరుపక్షాలూ సుప్రీంకోర్టుకు తెలియజేసినమీదటే ఈ విషయంలో భారతదేశ అత్యున్నత న్యాయస్థానం తీర్పు వెలువడింది. ఇటువంటి పరిస్థితుల్లో మతసామరస్యానికి భంగం కలిగించేలా, రెచ్చగొట్టేలా ఎలాంటి వ్యాఖ్యలు చేయరాదని అన్ని వర్గాలకూ విజ్ఞప్తిచేస్తున్నాను.
— YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (@ysjagan) November 9, 2019
A similar sentiment resonated through the statement offered by NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
“The Supreme Court has given its final verdict on the Ayodhya dispute today. Our party and I respect this decision,” he tweeted. “It is expected that all political parties and religious organisations will respect this decision.”
सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने आज अयोध्या विवाद पर अपना अंतिम फैसला सुनाया है। मैं और हमारी पार्टी इस निर्णय का सम्मान करते है। उम्मीद है कि सभी राजनीतिक दल और धार्मिक संगठन इस फैसले का आदर करेंगे।
— Sharad Pawar (@PawarSpeaks) November 9, 2019
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, said the “historic decision taken by the SC should be treated with respect by everyone”.
परमपूज्य बाबा साहेब डा भीमराव अम्बेडकर के धर्मनिरपेक्ष संविधान के तहत मा सुप्रीम कोर्ट द्वारा रामजन्मभूमि-बाबरी मस्जिद भूमि विवाद के सम्बंध में आज आम सहमति से दिए गए ऐतिहासिक फैसले का सभी को सम्मान करते हुए अब इसपर सौहार्दपूर्ण वातावरण में ही आगे का काम होना चाहिए ऐसी अपील व सलाह
— Mayawati (@Mayawati) November 9, 2019
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) urged people to not indulge in “provocative acts using the judgment which will disrupt communal harmony”. In a press statement, the party also questioned “certain premises” of the judgment, without elaborating on them.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M.K. Stalin said, “I hope the government will take this (the Ayodhya verdict) forward without prejudice while being respectful of religion.”
உச்சநீதிமன்றத்தின் அரசியல் சட்ட அமர்வே #AYODHYAVERDICT வழங்கியதற்குப் பிறகு, அதை எந்தவித விருப்பு-வெறுப்புக்கும் உட்படுத்தாமல், மதநல்லிணக்கம் போற்றி, நாட்டின் பன்முகத்தன்மைக்கு எவ்விதச் சேதாரமும் ஏற்பட்டுவிடாமல் எச்சரிக்கை உணர்வுடன் முன்னெடுத்துச் செல்வார்கள் என்று நம்புகிறேன். pic.twitter.com/AeVa8gh9oG
— M.K.Stalin (@mkstalin) November 9, 2019
AAP president and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, however, welcomed the verdict.
सभी पक्षों की दलीलें सुनने के बाद SC की बेंच के पाँचों जजों ने एकमत से आज अपना निर्णय दिया। हम SC के फ़ैसले का स्वागत करते हैं। कई दशकों के विवाद पर आज SC ने निर्णय दिया। वर्षों पुराना विवाद आज ख़त्म हुआ। मेरी सभी लोगों से अपील है कि शांति एवं सौहार्द बनाए रखें
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 9, 2019
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav had not commented until the time of publishing.