Lucknow: After being left out of the invitee list, Opposition leaders in Uttar Pradesh have decided to maintain silence on the ground-breaking ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya during the Covid-19 pandemic, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s presence at the event.
The Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress leaderships have instructed their local leaders to refrain from staging any kind of protest during the event. They have also asked their cadres to not raise the issue of social distancing in the wake of the event, according to sources in the parties.
The move comes as the opposition parties in UP believe that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will contest the 2022 assembly elections citing the Ram temple as its biggest achievement. The parties don’t want to give the BJP any chance to polarise the issue and make it a prominent electoral plank, said the sources.
These parties might resort to their own version of “soft Hindutva”, the sources added.
SP president Akhilesh Yadav might visit Ayodhya in the days to come, a party leader said on condition of anonymity.
Sources from the Congress also indicated that party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra could visit Ayodhya after the lockdown. She had paid a visit to Ayodhya’s Hanuman Garhi temple during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
However, the leaders of Mayawati-led BSP didn’t disclose any such plan.
PM Modi, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and several other BJP-RSS-VHP leaders associated with the temple movement are set to attend the ceremony.
In the opposition ranks, so far only AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has raised questions on Modi’s visit, saying that his participation is a violation of constitutional oath.
Strategy to deny BJP
Speaking about the SP’s plans, the party source said it has asked its leaders to not to raise the issue of crowds gathering at the event in the times of Covid-19 during television debates or even on social media platforms. The party fears doing this could allow the BJP to polarise the issue and turn it into an election plank.
“The Yogi government has not done anything remarkable during the last three years of its tenure on which they could rely to contest elections. Under these circumstances, they will love to contest the polls on the temple issue itself,” said the SP leader.
“By raising this issue, he will lay out a kind of trap to lure the opposition parties and it might become the primary subject of TV debates and social media discussions,” said the source. “We are well aware about all these strategies adopted by the BJP and we are not going to get entangled in all this.”
Meanwhile, the Congress has asked its spokespersons to not participate in any debate where there might be any kind of discussion on PM Modi’s Ayodhya programme 5 or any opposition to it.
“The sole purpose or intention behind gathering of such a crowd in the midst of the corona epidemic is that the opposition parties would question it and then BJP can politicise it by raising this issue,” said a senior Congress leader who didn’t wish to be named.
“But now everyone is well-acquainted with this kind of strategy. We will not make any comments regarding PM Modi’s programme,” he said.
A second party source said the Congress has only recently become active in the state under Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s leadership. In such a scenario, it wouldn’t like to get stuck with the tag of being “anti Hindu”.
According to BSP sources, the party completely respects the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Ram temple issue and has no intention to question the programme.
No hesitation in cornering Yogi government
Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party’s MLC Udayveer Singh said his party is constantly cornering the Yogi Adityanath government on the issues of deteriorating law and order and pitiful conditions of the healthcare services.
“We are raising all the relevant issues that are troubling the common public during the Corona period. But we also know how to avoid BJP’s trap and also how to keep raising the questions related to Government’s negligence,” said Singh.
Congress spokesperson Surendra Rajput said the party is the most active opposition in Uttar Pradesh right now and so it would be unfair to say that it is shying away from raising the issue of holding the Ram temple ceremony at this time.
He said everyone remains devoted to Lord Ram and “we are siding with the decision of the Supreme Court”.
“However, if any kind of negligence is witnessed during the programme then that issue will definitely be raised,” said Rajput.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.