New Delhi: The Ayodhya case is back on the political centre stage. After the Supreme Court on Monday deemed that dealing with the pending case was not a priority, the political clamour by saffron affiliates for the government to pass a law to enable the building of a Ram Mandir at the disputed site grew louder. It could potentially become central to 2019 Lok Sabha elections, thereby further polarizing voter preferences.

The Supreme Court, which took up the Ayodhya case on Monday, said that it would decide on the schedule of the final hearings of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case and the composition of the three-judge bench only in January. Expectations among saffron groups was that the apex court would deliver an early verdict.

Fearing a delay, the Shiv Sena, alliance partner of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the BJP’s ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) went on record demanding the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) push a law through Parliament. The Shiv Sena, in fact, wants the government to pass an ordinance to allow construction of the Ram Mandir at the earliest.

“Our stand is clear and consistent, we want the union government to pass a law in Parliament for construction of a temple in Ayodhya, which is the birthplace of Lord Rama. It has been proven that it was the birthplace of Lord Rama, the government must bring a law or the Supreme Court should decide on it," said Arun Kumar, prachar pramukh of the RSS.

Kumar clarified that the RSS is in favour of bringing a law on the issue and that it has not demanded an ordinance from the government.

Similarly, senior members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an affiliate of the RSS, asked the union government to pass a law in the forthcoming winter session of parliament which is expected to start in November. The dates for the winter session have not been decided yet.

The timing of the demand to pass a law for the construction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya comes ahead of elections in five states next month. The BJP is in power in three of these states, including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

The Congress sought to play down the issue.

“This is a familiar story. Every five years before elections, the BJP will try to polarize views on Ram Mandir. You know the Congress party’s position—the matter is before the Supreme Court and everyone should wait until the Supreme Court decides on the questions before the Supreme Court. I don’t think we should jump the gun," former union minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram told reporters on Monday.

The apex court had on 27 September refused to refer to a larger bench its 1994 judgement holding that a mosque was not integral to the practice of Islam. The issue had arisen from a judgement in the Ismail Faruqui vs Union of India case where the court considered the acquisition of a religious place and held that a mosque was not integral to the practice of Islam.

“Honourable Supreme Court has once again adjourned the hearing of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi appeals to the year 2019 today. The adjournment has fortified our stand that the solution to the Ram Janmabhoomi issue is not eternally waiting for the hearing of the appeals pending now for several years. We request to the Union government to now enact a law to clear the way for building a grand temple of Lord Rama at his birthplace in Ayodhya. This may be done in the coming winter session of Parliament," said Alok Kumar, international working president of the VHP.

“The union government is facing pressure from the RSS and its affiliates to bring a law or at least an ordinance to start construction of the temple in Ayodhya. BJP is facing difficulty because some of the alliance partners may not agree to this kind of politics. There is also the fear that the ordinance would get challenged in court as the case is being heard in the Supreme Court. The BJP does not know what to do or how to handle the situation," said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a New Delhi-based political analyst.

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