Ayodhya temple ceremony designed around Modi, has been ‘captured’ to give electoral flavour: Rahul Gandhi

The Congress leader says he has no need to wear religion on his sleeve as it is “principles to live by”, not a “public relationship to make use of”; asked if yatra will pass through Ayodhya, says it has a fixed route

Updated - January 16, 2024 09:47 pm IST

Published - January 16, 2024 08:57 pm IST - CHIEPHOBOZOU

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses supporters during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, in Wokha, Nagaland, on Jan. 16, 2024.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses supporters during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, in Wokha, Nagaland, on Jan. 16, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Breaking his silence on the Congress top leadership’s refusal to attend the consecration ceremony of Lord Ram’s idol at Ayodhya, senior leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that the January 22 function has been made completely political by the BJP and RSS, and is designed around Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He was responding to a question from The Hindu on whether the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, currently at Chiephobozou in Nagaland, will travel through Ayodhya.

The function to be held at Ayodhya has been “captured” and is being given an electoral flavour, Mr. Gandhi said, noting that this was the reason the Congress president had declined to attend the consecration.

‘Political function’

“We are open to all religions, all practices. Even the biggest authorities of the Hindu religion have made their views public about what they think about the January 22 function. It is difficult for us to go to a political function which is designed around the Prime Minister of India and designed around the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),” Mr. Gandhi said.

He made it clear that the INDIA bloc partners and individual Congress members are more than welcome to visit the Ram Temple but made a distinction between a temple visit and the consecration ceremony 

“The January 22 function is a PM function and RSS function. It is not possible for us to attend,” he reiterated.

Mr. Gandhi was responding to questions during a press conference on the third day of the yatra. Specifically asked if the yatra would take a route through Ayodhya, he said, “Our yatra has a fixed route and we are going to follow that route. We are going to follow the route that I am on, this is a route that we have designed and we are going to stick to this route.”

Asked where he himself would be on January 22, and if he would be visiting a temple, he said, “I actually don’t know. I can check and tell you.”

‘Religion is a personal matter’

In response to a question about the BJP attacking the Gandhi family as anti-Hindu, he said that religion was a personal matter, contrasting his approach with that of his political rivals. “My thinking is that those who really believe in religion in the true sense keep their relations with religion personal and don’t make use of religion. Those who have a public relationship with religion try to make use of it. I have no such interest,” Mr. Gandhi said.

He stressed that, for him, the Hindu religion was about living by principles such as spreading love and not hate, treating people with respect and not arrogance. “I follow that in my life. So I don’t need to wear my religion on my sleeve,” he said.

Confident about INDIA

On the electoral prospects of the INDIA alliance, Mr. Gandhi said that it was well placed to defeat the BJP with its alternative vision of providing social, economic, and political justice, and fighting injustice and hatred.

The Congress leader expressed confidence about a positive outcome from the ongoing seat-sharing talks among INDIA partners, but played down reports of uncertainties about making Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar the convenor of the Opposition bloc.

“Media focus too much on one issue. The meeting of INDIA allies was held in a cordial manner. There is unity and fraternity among the leaders,” he said.

After meeting Naga civil society leaders, the Congress leader questioned the stalled peace talks and promised a solution if the Congress came to power.

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