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Business News/ Politics / Congress rejects Ayodhya Ram Mandir ‘Pran Pratistha’ invite. Will grand old party's gamble pay off in Lok Sabha polls?
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Congress rejects Ayodhya Ram Mandir ‘Pran Pratistha’ invite. Will grand old party's gamble pay off in Lok Sabha polls?

The Congress says its senior leaders will not attend the inauguration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22. Lord Ram is worshipped by millions in our country and religion is a personal matter, the party has said.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Sonia Gandhi. (ANI)Premium
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Sonia Gandhi. (ANI)

Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury “respectfully" declined the invitation extended by Ram Janmabhoomi Temple Trust to attend the ‘Pran Prathista’ ceremony in Ayodhya on January 22, months before the country heads to the polls.

In a statement, the Congress said that its senior leaders would not be attending the inauguration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22. “Lord Ram is worshipped by millions in our country" and “religion is a personal matter", read the party statement. 

The Congress described the inauguration of an “incomplete" temple as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ploy for electoral gain.

However, the Congress has never been ballistic on the Ayodhya issue. Rather, the party's notion of Ram Janmabhoomi agitation and subsequent breaking down of Babri Masjid remained one of vacillations. 

It was reported that the late Rajiv Gandhi was not in the know when Babri Masjid's locks were opened. However, it was Rajiv Gandhi, the then prime minister, who permitted the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to perform the ‘shilanyas’ (foundation stone-laying ceremony) at the disputed site.

Even though the Congress has distanced itself from the current Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir consecration ceremony, in 1991, the Congress promised to be in favour of the Ram Mandir. In 1992 the Babri Masjid came down under the watch of a Congress government at the Centre.

Etymologically, the acceptance and rejection of the Ram Mandir has seemingly been a vote-based choice for the grand old party. 

Notably, the Congress has always been termed a minority-appeasing party. However, for the BJP, the Ram Janmabhoomi issue and appeasement of the Hindus have remained the bait. 

In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Hindu side in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit case. This was also welcomed by the Congress. 

However, the current Indian socio-political environment has been bipolar with the minority taking a backseat against the Hindu prevalence. The BJP has projected the Congress as ‘anti-Hindu’ and capitalised on this to win votes in the past two Lok Sabha polls. 

Therefore rejecting the Ram Mandir invitation stands to work like a gamble, wherein many would be appeased, and many others would not. The Hindi Heartland of India has clearly shown their choice of placing their faith in the fundamentalist saffron party rather than the party whose inception was socialist. 

On Wednesday, the Congress in its rejection of the Ram Mandir invite framed it so that the inauguration was a “BJP-RSS political event", keeping in mind the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP government-Sangh overlap in the events leading up to the consecration of Ram Mandir is also evident, with the invitations and celebrations being managed by the VHP and the RSS. 

Sonia Gandhi had earlier admitted that the BJP had managed to “convince people, persuade people that the Congress party is a Muslim party".

While the Congress managed not to isolate itself within the survival plank, the INDIA bloc, whether the rejection will play out in favour of the grand old party will only be understood in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Historically, rejection of the fundamentalist agenda has not been kind to the Mallikarjun Kharge-led party. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sayantani Biswas
Sayantani is an editor with Livemint. She covers stories of International and Indian politics, conflict
Catch all the Politics News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
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Published: 11 Jan 2024, 04:16 PM IST
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