The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday asked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government to consider introducing legislation for the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, cautioning that it was “in nobody’s interest to test the patience of the society without any reason.”
Bhagwat’s comments drew flak from critics of the RSS who linked the timing to key state elections at the year-end leading up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The demand for the legislation, earlier made by RSS affiliate Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is in contrast to the Sangh’s earlier stance of waiting for a Supreme Court decision on the issue. The top court is expected to start hearing the main Ayodhya title suit from October 29, after it declined to refer to a larger bench the “questionable observation” in its 1994 verdict that a “mosque is not an essential part of the practice of Islam”.
“This matter of national interest is being obstructed by some fundamentalist elements and forces that play communal politics for selfish gains. Despite such machinations, the decision regarding ownership of the land should be expedited, and the government should clear the path for construction of the grand temple through appropriate and requisite law,” Bhagwat said, delivering the annual Vijaydashami speech in Nagpur. RSS is the ideological fount of the ruling BJP.
Bhagwat minced no words in blaming political parties for politicising the Ram Temple’s construction on the disputed site in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid once stood, and which Hindu organisations say marks the birthplace of Lord Ram. If it weren’t for political machinations, the temple would have been constructed a long time ago, he said.
“The place of Janmabhoomi is yet to be allocated for the construction of the temple although all kinds of evidence have affirmed that there was a temple at that place. There is an obvious game plan of a few elements to stall the judgment by presenting various newer interventions in the judicial process,” he said.
BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao supported Bhagwat, saying a grand Ram temple must be built at the site, the Opposition said RSS should refrain from making political statements.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said RSS, which “claims to be a social-cultural organisation”, should refrain from talking about politics.
“There is an institutional arrangement to deal with issues that are sub judice and if the RSS has demands from the government they should make them in private and not provoke people on controversial issues,” he said.
Samajwadi Party (SP) spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said: “The statement on Ram temple given by the RSS chief is a political statement before the upcoming elections.The RSS has not desisted from using the names of gods for political means and this statement proves their intentions in this regard once again.”
The convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, Zafaryab Jilani, said Bhagwat made similar statemeMoD/HALnts in the past wherein he exhorted the people to ensure that a temple is constructed on the Ayodhya site before 2019. “Bhagwat is trying to influence the court but I am sure he will not succeed,” Jilani, who is also a senior lawyer, said.
Commenting on the Sangh’s demand for finding a resolution of the Ram temple issue through legislation, a political commentator Shirish Kashikar said: “The message is loud and clear: RSS will push the government to take a decision on their demand. It may not have been at the focus during the 2014 general elections, but it will certainly carry weight in the next round of Lok Sabha polls.”
The RSS chief had recently hit out at opposition parties and said they too cannot openly oppose the construction of a temple.
For the past several months, affiliates of the RSS, including the BJP, have been bringing up the issue of the Ram Temple’s construction; a few months ago, BJP president Amit Shah told party workers in Telangana that the construction of the temple would start before the 2019 polls.
While the renewed focus on the Ram Temple issue is being seen as an attempt by the Sangh and the party to coalesce the Hindu vote bank, Bhagwat opted to present the demand as a matter of “self-esteem”.
“It is in nobody’s interest to test the patience of the society without any reason. The construction of the temple is necessary from the self-esteem point of view; it will also pave the way for an atmosphere of goodwill and oneness in the country,” he said.