Analysis | Different voices emerge in Congress despite party’s ‘no’ to Ram Temple pran pratistha

While the Congress attempted to delink its politics from faith, its flipflops on the Mandir issue over decades don’t allow such strict separation 

Updated - January 11, 2024 09:23 pm IST

Published - January 11, 2024 03:21 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress Party president Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Sonia Gandhi during the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, at AICC headquarters in New Delhi.

Congress Party president Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Sonia Gandhi during the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, at AICC headquarters in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Congress’ public articulation on the invitation to attend the pran pratistha (consecration ceremony) of Lord Ram’s idol at the newly built temple in Ayodhya nearly 12 days before the event was as much meant to frame a position for its own leaders as it was to convey its decision.

Party president Mallikarjun Kharge, chairperson of the Parliamentary party, Sonia Gandhi, and the party‘s leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, were among those invited to the grand ceremony on January 22

While declining the invitation through a statement, issued by communication chief Jairam Ramesh, the party made the following points: the temple project was a long-standing “political project” of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh; an “incomplete” temple is being inaugurated for electoral gains; Lord Ram was worshipped by millions but religion was a personal matter.

Also Read | Ayodhya | Building a city around a temple 

The party sought to link the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya to the politics of the BJP-RSS-VHP combine on the one hand, while it attempted to delink its politics from faith. 

But the party’s flipflops on the Mandir issue over decades don’t allow such strict separation. From claiming credit for opening the locks at the disputed site by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986 to promising a new temple at Ayodhya without disturbing the existing Babri Masjid in its 1991 Lok Sabha manifesto to the Narasimha Rao government assuring the Muslim community to build a new mosque post Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, the Congress and its leaders have been shifting their positions. 

Even now, despite the statement from the top leadership, opinions are divided.  A section of the party was keen to attend the event; a senior leader argued that the “the absence of the principal Opposition party will allow the BJP to target us as anti-Hindu and use it to polarise the electorate”.

Also Read | Religious leaders slam ‘politicisation’ of Ram temple consecration

Hours after the party issued the statement, Vikramaditya Singh, son of former Chief Minister late Virbhadra Singh, who is the Public Works Minister in the Himachal Pradesh government reiterated his earlier position of attending the event. 

Earlier he had said, “My father was always in favour of Ram Temple movement. It is not a political issue for us; it is a religious matter”. 

“We are Hindu and taking our religion forward, and entrusting faith in our traditions is our culture, and we will keep moving in this direction,” Mr. Singh had said.

Senior party leader from Arjun Modhwadia, who served as the leader of the Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, struck a discordant note.

“Lord Shri Ram is a revered god. This is a matter of faith and belief of the countrymen. @INCIndia should have stayed away from taking such political decisions,” Mr. Modhwadia said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday.

Also Read | With the temple will rise a new Ayodhya, U.P. government avers

Leaders of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress too had announced plans to visit Ayodhya on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on January 15 to take a dip in the Saryu river and then visit the Ram temple and the Hanumangarhi temple.

On November 9, 2019,  the Congress Working Committee stated that it respected the Supreme Court verdict on the  Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, but when Randeep Surjewala, then the party’s chief spokesperson, was asked if the party favoured the construction of the Ram Mandir, the answer was a categorical “yes”.

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