By QUAID NAJMI
Mumbai, July 20 (IANS) As Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to perform the much-anticipated groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram temple in Ayodhya on August 5, a slugfest has erupted in Maharashtra among various political parties.
There even appeared some differences of opinion in the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi comprising the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party taking potshots at the three-party alliance.
Sena spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said that for the Shiv Sena, Ram temple is a matter of faith and not politics.
“We removed all the roadblocks for construction of Ram Mandir and it is a matter of faith and the larger cause of Hindutva, not for playing politics,” Raut said.
To query a whether Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray would travel to Ayodhya, Raut shot back: “Uddhavji always goes to Ayodhya and doesn’t need any invitation. He went there before he became CM and even afterwards. We don’t go to Ayodhya for politics.”
Shiv Sena Mumbai South MP Arvind Sawant pointed out that the party was the first in the country to donate Rs 5 crore towards the temple construction.
“Whether the invitation has come or not, I am not aware, nor is it a matter of prestige for us. Uddhavji will take a decision in the matter,” Sawant said.
The party is waiting and watching to see who are invited by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Nyas for the ‘bhoomi-pujan’ and as Raut sarcastically wondered “what kind of political distancing is maintained”.
Raut and Sawant’s reactions came after NCP President Sharad Pawar late on Sunday softly expressed his views that “some people think building a temple will help eradicate the Covid pandemic”.
“Eradicating the Covid-19 is the top priority of Maharashtra government. The war against the coronavirus is being fought by our doctors in white aprons, who we consider ‘Devdoots’ (God’s Angels),” said the 79-year-old veteran leader in his characteristic style.
State Congress President and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat tersely said that the “Ram temple ‘bhoomi-pujan’ is being organised to divert peoples’ attention from the corona pandemic”.
With the MVA partners seem to be singing different tunes, BJP’s Leader of Opposition in Council Pravin Darekar took a swipe at the government, saying: “The CM will not require a ‘no-objection certificate’ from Sharad Pawar to attend the ‘bhoomi-pujan’ ceremony in Ayodhya.”
“Thackeray used to say that ‘first the temple, then the government’. However, first he became the CM of the state government and the Ram temple is happening now. I don’t think he will share the views of Pawar. Thackeray doesn’t care about anybody when it concerns Ram temple and Hindutva, so he will not wait for Pawar’s NOC,” Darekar said.
He also called upon Thackeray to revive his ‘Hindutva’ agenda which was kept aside to run the MVA government.
Jumping into the debate, former Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam questioned the need for Pawar to raise the Ram temple issue.
“On one hand, the CM is trying to attend the bhoomi-pujan ceremony, on the other, the NCP chief has unnecessarily raked up the matter. It’s best for the Congress to keep off the controversy. After all, it’s happening after the Supreme Court verdict and the Congress has never been opposed to building the temple,” Nirupam said.
Thackeray had gone to Ayodhya first in November 2018 when the BJP-Sena was in power, later he went in March this year as a thanksgiving after completing 100 days as CM.
At that time, Thackeray pointed out that though the Sena had broken ties with BJP, it had not parted ways with Hindutva and the BJP did not symbolise Hindutva.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])