The event signals the start of fulfilling a promise that has been part of BJP’s poll manifestos for decades
Members of Ram Janmabhoomi Trust consulted senior BJP leaders to draw up the list of invitees
NEW DELHI :
The stage is set for Wednesday’s grand foundation stone-laying ceremony for the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya, to be attended by 175 dignitaries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 135 religious leaders. Last November, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the construction of the temple with its verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.
Members of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra, a trust formed by the Union government on the directions of the apex court, consulted senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, besides lawyer K. Parasaran, to draw up the final list of invitees, including religious leaders from across the country and Nepal.
Modi’s presence will be significant, with the ceremony signalling the start of fulfilling a promise that has been part of the BJP’s election manifestos for three decades.
“The construction of the Ram temple has never been an issue of politics for BJP. The party has always supported the construction of a temple in Ayodhya, it is a matter of faith for all Indians, and we are confident that the construction of the temple will lead to peace and harmony in the country. We must not forget that even after the verdict of the Supreme Court, there was no celebration in the country because no one wanted to hurt religious sentiments of any community," said a senior BJP leader and cabinet minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, requesting anonymity.
The temple could further boost the cultural and political fortunes of the ruling BJP, besides its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliate the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The Ram Janmabhoomi movement, which started in 1984, gained momentum in 1989 after Advani carried out a nationwide campaign, leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992.
The construction of the Ram temple is also expected to help the BJP in assembly polls due in Bihar in October and UP in 2022. The BJP’s prospects might also be visible in West Bengal, which goes to polls in May 2021.
After speculation that the Congress was refraining from taking an official stand on the issue, the party’s senior leader and general secretary from UP, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, released an official statement on Tuesday morning. “An event of bhoomi pujan (ground breaking) of the temple of Ram Lalla has been organized on 5 August, 020. By the grace of Lord Ram, this event will become one of spreading his message about national unity, fraternity and cultural gathering," she said.
Soon after the ceremony at Ayodhya, the Uttar Pradesh government is expected to release a postal stamp with the temple design. Modi will plant a jasmine tree in the temple premises during the event, which is expected to commence at noon and go on till 2pm. An inscription of the temple will also be inaugurated.
“5 August is a big milestone because of two main reasons—legal backing by none less than a Supreme Court judgment and a sense of euphoria which has come due to social support to the move. One would have expected some political parties to talk about the timing, the pandemic in a forceful manner but almost all of them, including Congress, today have openly supported it," said Sanjay Kumar, director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.
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