Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray issues ultimatum to Modi govt to build Ram temple at Ayodhya, says if you don’t, we will.
Mumbai: With eyes on next year’s general elections, allies Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are looking at the Ram temple issue to outdo each other in proving who’s more Hindu.
On Thursday, hours after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat demanded a law to enable the construction of the Ram temple, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray went a step further. He gave the BJP-led Union government an ultimatum, urging it to either build the temple or “declare it as one of its jumlas”.
Speaking at the Shiv Sena’s annual Dussehra rally, Thackeray said, “If you don’t start building the temple then the Shiv Sena will have to look into it. We will have to take scores of Hindus with us and build.
“The Hindu of this country is not the property of anyone. He does not forget. Our people have not forgotten the promises that you made,” said the Sena chief.
Thackeray also declared a visit to Ayodhya on 25 November to question Prime Minister Narendra Modi from there. He criticised Modi for touring countries the world over in four and a half years, but not visiting Ayodhya even once despite being an elected MP from Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier in the day, Bhagwat, speaking in Nagpur, said there should be an appropriate and requisite law for the early construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, calling it necessary for the nation’s self-esteem, and an atmosphere of goodwill and oneness.
Late Thursday, Thackeray sought to project the Shiv Sena as on the same side as the RSS over the issue.
“I want to congratulate Mohan Bhagwat because he has expressed exactly what the Shiv Sena thinks. Ram mandir banayenge, lekin tariq nahi batayenge. (They say the Ram temple will be built soon, but when?),” he said.
Thackeray also said that just like the Sena has been criticising the government for its policies, the RSS has also started voicing its concerns.
“When we talk, people ask us why don’t you step out of the government. The other way, why don’t you ask the Sangh, why do you not edge them out? The Sangh ultimately had a big hand in the BJP government being formed,” Thackeray said.
Relations between the Shiv Sena and ally BJP have been increasingly choppy, with Thackeray in the past saying that his party is in power with the BJP only for the cause of Hindutva.
In January, the Sena, now reduced to a junior partner in the alliance, resolved to contest the 2019 elections solo.
There have been reported overtures by the BJP to pacify its ally of two decades — led by Modi and party chief Amit Shah — but the parties have since fought two Lok Sabha bypolls as rivals, and there’s been no let-up in the Sena’s acerbic comments for the BJP.
On Thursday too, while he did not spell it out, Thackeray indicated the Sena’s intent to fight polls on its own strength.
Political commentator Surendra Jondhale said Shiv Sena is using Hindutva to emphasise its identity as distinct from the BJP in setting the stage for the 2019 polls.
“The Shiv Sena knows that the BJP is on the back foot on the development agenda and that ahead of the elections it will turn to polarisation with its core Hindutva agenda,” said Jondhale.
“It is apparent with everything that has been happening — the Sabarimala protests, followed by Mohan Bhagwan’s statement about the Ram Mandir. The Sena is seeking to establish itself on a higher ground in this regard.”
Besides the Ram temple, Thackeray also lashed out at the Modi government over rising fuel prices, inflation, rupee depreciation and its lack of initiative in scrapping Article 370 that gives a special status to Jammu & Kashmir.
He urged the government to table a proposal for scrapping the provision in the Lok Sabha, saying that the Shiv Sena will firmly stand by the BJP’s side and support such a move.
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