A file photo of Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi. | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint
File photo of Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi. | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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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. 


Also Read: 4 reasons why SC rejected Muslims’ claim on Ram Janmabhoomi site


‘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. 

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party, meanwhile, made an appeal to maintain “peace and harmony”. 

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.”

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”. 

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.”

AAP president and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, however, welcomed the verdict. 

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav had not commented until the time of publishing. 


Also Read: Ram Mandir ‘poster boy’ Advani keeps low profile as SC allows temple, hosts one visitor


 

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