Ram temple bhoomi pujan | Congress walks a tightrope

Rahul Gandhi. File photo: Getty Images

Rahul Gandhi. File photo: Getty Images  

Moments after Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed the bhoomi puja (ground breaking ceremony) for the Ram temple in Ayodhya, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday tweeted about Lord Ram embodying the finest human values, and who would never stand with “hate, cruelty and injustice”.

But unlike his sister and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Mr. Gandhi, who is a Lok Sabha member from Wayanad in Kerala, did not refer to the bhoomi pujan.

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In a tweet in Hindi, Mr. Gandhi said: “Maryada Purshottam Lord Ram is the ultimate embodiment of supreme human values. He is the core of humanism embedded deep in our hearts. Ram is love, he can never appear in hatred. Ram is compassion, he can never appear in cruelty. Ram is justice, he can never appear in injustice.”

The tweet reflected a tricky path some in the Congress are walking on temple politics. In Kerala, where the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is an ally of the Congress, the party wants to make a distinction between an inclusive Hindu philosophy and the strident Hindutva identified with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But in North India, most leaders have openly and visibly embraced the temple construction event and is being seen more as a matter of “course correction”.

Following the 2014 poll debacle, when the Congress was reduced to 44 seats, senior leader A. K. Antony had submitted an internal report where he is learnt to have talked about a “public perception” in which Congress was seen as a party for minorities.

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The party never made the report public but its impact was clearly seen in how the party handled Assembly election campaigns. Mr. Gandhi’s temple visits, such as to the the Somnath temple in Gujarat and the Mahakaal temple in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, have become a regular feature since 2017.

On Tuesday, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath held a Hanuman Chalisa recitation and announced that the Congress would offer 11 silver bricks for the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced that his government would develop all religious sites associated with Lord Ram as major tourist destinations.

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Some Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor and Salman Khurshid, however, did make a fine point with their tweets.

“Lord ShriRam epitomises justice for all, righteous conduct, fairness & firmness in all dealings, moral rectitude & courage. These values are much needed in such dark times. If they spread throughout the land, Ram Rajya would not be an occasion for triumphalist bigotry. #JaiShriRam!” tweeted Mr. Tharoor.

Referring to the court order on the temple-mosque dispute, Mr. Khursid tweeted, “The temple is welcome but one should remember the court also ordered the mosque to be built. The Prime Minister should support both as it is the heritage of secularism. Faith in religion and faith in the Constitution.”

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 8:53:58 AM |

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