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Why Congress leaders are raising funds to build Ram Temple & why it may not help the party

Several leaders in MP, Kerala, Rajasthan have donated towards Ram Temple or urged others to do so. But party has distanced itself, saying ‘faith is personal’.

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New Delhi: This Tuesday, the Congress party’s student wing National Students Union of India (NSUI) launched a donation drive in Rajasthan for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

Just a few days before, a Congress leader in Kerala had inaugurated a fund collection drive by the RSS in the Alappuzha district.

NSUI’s state president Abhishek Chaudhary, who launched the donation drive titled ‘Re 1 Ram Ke Naam’ in Jaipur, claimed that the BJP and RSS’ student wing ABVP were “looting” people in the name of raising funds for the temple, and that’s what led them to take the decision.

Speaking to ThePrint, NSUI’s national president Neeraj Kundan defended the Rajasthan unit’s move. “The idea is that we got to know that some people are forcing people to donate a certain amount… So in case someone is willing to give even 1 rupee, it should be respected,” he said.

T.G. Reghunatha Pillai, the Congress’ vice-president in Alappuzha who inaugurated the RSS’ donation drive, also defended his move after facing backlash from party workers. Pillai insisted that he participated in the drive in the capacity of the president of Pallippuram Kadavil Mahalakshmi temple, and that “in temple affairs, there is no role for politics”.

However, senior Congress leaders have tried to distance themselves from these moves. The party’s national treasurer Pawan Bansal said he had been contacted for the drive but he refused.

“I was not aware that NSUI in Rajasthan will be collecting funds for the Ram Temple. But this is not the stand of the Congress. The Congress has no plans to collect donations for the Ram Temple. I was contacted for the drive but I refused, as religion for me is my personal faith and personal matter. The Congress is secular,” Bansal said at a press conference with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot by his side.


Also read: Congress says it respects Ayodhya verdict, supports building of Ram temple


Not the first time

The moves in Rajasthan and Kerala are hardly the first time Congress leaders have engaged in donation politics over the Ram Temple.

Digvijaya Singh, Rajya Sabha MP and former Madhya Pradesh CM, donated Rs 1,11,111 to the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra trust in January. Singh, who has been one of the most vocal proponents of Ram Temple construction in the Congress, also sent a letter to PM Narendra Modi, urging that he ensures the collection drive is peaceful and done in “a cordial atmosphere”, after reports surfaced about communal slogans and harassment during the donation drives.

Weeks before this, Madhya Pradesh Congress secretary Vivek Khandelwal launched a donation drive for the temple construction, but insisted it was done in a “personal capacity”.

Subsequently, P.C. Sharma, MLA from Bhopal Dakshin-Paschim and a former state minister, launched an “awareness campaign” urging the public to donate the funds directly to the Ram Mandir trust, and not trust anyone else with their money. The awareness campaign included a recital of the Hanuman Chalisa, following which party workers distributed pamphlets with a photograph of Rajiv Gandhi laying the foundation stone of the temple in Ayodhya in 1989.

Former Uttarakhand minister Nav Prabhat also made an appeal to Congress workers to donate money to the Ram Temple trust, calling the temple a “symbol of India’s unity”.

In August last year, on the eve of the bhoomi pujan ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel had announced that he would donate Rs 21,000 to the trust, and hoped the temple would usher the beginning of a ‘Ram Rajya’.


Also read: ‘Don’t want Lord Ram to be part of any controversy’ — Digvijaya on Congress’ stance on temple


‘Can’t make it seem like BJP’s win’

However, Congress leaders insist there hasn’t been any “official directive” from the high-command to conduct these drives, or even to donate money.

“From the party, there is not an instruction or even a whimper on these lines. All of this is initiated by people who may be overly enthusiastic about these affairs. This is precisely why Pawan Bansal immediately distanced himself and the party from this,” a Congress leader told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.

Other party members, however, say the eagerness to be associated with donating for the temple is an attempt to not let it seem like “BJP’s win”.

“We are late to this whole issue, but we cannot let this perception keep growing that the Ram Mandir is the BJP’s win. It was the Supreme Court’s verdict. Moreover, it’s important to emphasise and remind voters that the Congress opened the gates of the Babri Masjid, and has always had a section of leaders who are deeply committed Hindus,” another leader said.

“No party should cede the space of religion to BJP. Definitely not the Congress,” the second leader added.

Pratap Bhanu Sharma, vice-president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress and former MP, agreed that these donation camps by Congress leaders are important to not let BJP take the credit for Ram Temple construction, and also to normalise it as “a purely religion site”.

“If people from the trust come to collect money from me, I will also give it — at an individual level. Ram Mandir holds great importance in all people’s emotions; it is above politics. But BJP has given a communal colour to the subject, which is why it is important to normalise it as a religious site which is connected to the faith of ordinary people,” Sharma said.

‘No point jumping on the bandwagon’

Political analysts say the Congress doesn’t stand to gain much by organising such donation drives.

“At this juncture, there is no point jumping the bandwagon. Ram Mandir is not any ordinary temple; there is a history of political controversy around it which the BJP has sown and they have benefitted from it. If you could never counter it, then no point attempting to do it now,” said political scientist Suhas Palshikar. “It only reflects the aimlessness of the party.”

Political scientist Zoya Hasan said this isn’t the Congress’ first attempt at appropriating Ram Temple politics.

“Congress has, every now and then, played the soft-Hindutva card. It often tries to claim credit for the building of the Ram Mandir as, after all, it was a Congress government which allowed the VHP to perform the shilanyas, and opened the flood gates of majoritarian politics around the Ram Janmbhoomi,” she told ThePrint.

However, Hasan predicted that if the Congress engages in these drives, it will only be dismissed by the “target audience”.

“Over the last few years, Congress has tried to harness Hindu sentiments generated by the Ram Mandir issue, but it hasn’t helped the Congress cut into BJP’s Hindu base. Apart from demonstrating its Hindu credentials, it is done partly to offset the perception regarding Congress’s pro-minority stance, which turns the majority community away from the party”, she said.

“But this is a pointless activity. Congress is not going to benefit from this competitive display of religiosity as Ram Mandir is BJP’s turf — that’s what catapulted it to power as the original exemplars of publicised Hinduness. Competing with the BJP on its turf results in scepticism from the target audience, and (Congress’) dismissal as a pretender,” Hasan added.


Also read: After Priyanka endorsement for Ram Mandir, Congress strives to show her as temple proponent


 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. There could be a few sympathisers for the Hindu way of life, but the rest of the Congress party members are floating in the wind and water, will go the direction of the stream / air. If they are collecting funds, it could be in the name of the Mandir, but until the funds reach the destination, nothing could be said. Whatever the Congress could do to attract the Hindu voters, its base from the other segments. The party has lost the confidence of the Hindu electorate.

  2. Congress has already lost the plot long ago. The party which all along engaged in puahing Hindus and Ram to sidelines and indulged in full blatant minority appeasement is now on the throes of being confined to the dustbins of history. Kapil Sibal and congress first denied the existance of Lord Ram and told the courts that Lord Rama was a mythical character. Then it denied that Raam Setu existed. Later Kapil Sibal told the court the Supreme Court that the final verdict on Ram Temple should not be given before the 2019 lok sabha election because it might benefit BJP. But by that time the people of thia country had already seen through this game of congress of running with the hare and hunting with the hound. The people of this country showed congress it place in the 2019 LS elections where Modi won by even bigger majority for BJP compared to 2014 . Pawan Bansal who is scoffing at the colection drive was himself defeated in Chandigarh twice by Kiran Kher. The congress should remember that Lord Ram is the deity of majority of the Indians and all this flip flop on this issue will not impress the people. Congress is a proven party of Hindu haters. I wish Lord Ram ensures that whatever little of this antinational, anti Hindu party is remaining that too should be wiped out from India’s firmament.

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