Opinions are divided on whether an announcement on the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya will be made during Ujjain’s Simhastha fair but everyone agrees that it will be discussed.
The president of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-run trust, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, said a “decisive meeting” will be held during Simhastha, in which the date for starting construction on the temple could be finalised. Another member of the trust and former BJP MP Dr Ram Vilas Vedanti, however, maintained that no dates will be declared.
“After last month’s meeting of seers at the Magh Mela in Allahabad, I was clearly told by Vishwa Hindu Parishad organisation secretary Dinesh Chandra that dates for starting temple construction will not be finalised or announced in Ujjain during April-May Simhastha,” Vedanti told HT over phone on Thursday.
After the debacle in the 2014 UP assembly by-elections and the Bihar assembly polls last year, largely blamed on the BJP’s politics of polarisation, the saffron party appears to have softened its stance ahead UP polls in 2017.
“The VHP is buckling under pressure of Narendra Modi-, Amit Shah-led BJP, which like other parties doesn’t want to hurt sentiments of minorities ahead of the 2017 UP assembly polls,” said the former BJP MP, who had last month said the date of construction will be announced during the month-long fair that starts on April 22 in Ujjain.
Despite the softened approach, the VHP is continuing its campaign to garner support for the temple — special Ram Janmotsav programmes will be organised in 9 lakh villages during Chaitra Navratra next month.
“The Ram temple is integral to the VHP and we’ll certainly discuss accelerating pace of chiselling stones for the grand temple in Ayodhya,” VHP spokesperson in Faizabad-Ayodhya, Sharad Sharma, said on Friday.
“A sant sammellan (seers’ conclave) and the meeting of the VHP’s apex body, the Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal, will definitely be held at Ujjain Simhastha in May, but it’s not clear whether the Ram temple construction date will be announced there or not,” he added.
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) too resisted discussing the contentious topic during its annual pratinidhi sabha meeting in Nagaur, Rajasthan, and instead focused on resolutions on social equity, health, and education.
Though it seems unlikely that a date would be announced in the coming months, a campaign to mobilise support during the fair is certain to take prominence.
Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, who spearheaded the Ram Temple movement in the 1990s with Paramhans Ramchandra Das, said seers, akhara heads and Hindu leaders will discuss the issue and meetings will be held all through the month to exhort more pilgrims to join the movement in support of temple construction.
“We are also mobilising people all over the country through the network of our various ashrams to come to Simhastha,” he said.
In addition, top seers and leaders of the saffron brigade will congregate to decide the future of the movement at a special two-day conclave from May 5. The VHP camp at Rudrasagar near Mahakaleshwar temple will likely be the venue as all shankaracharyas (religious heads) have their camps nearby.
With around five crore people expected to attend the holy festival, the biggest in Madhya Pradesh, the saffron brigade will have an apt platform to sway Hindu voters with an eye to the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections.
The shankaracharya of Sumeru Peeth, Swami Narendranath Saraswati, demanded a joint session of Parliament to pave the way for Ram Temple construction and said a strategy to press the government for it would be chalked out during Simhastha.
He, however, denied that the temple issue was being deliberately brought up ahead of the assembly polls.
Mahamandleshwar Shantiswaroopanand ji, whose Akhand ashram has been a centre of Hindu activities in Ujjain, said since the matter was in the Supreme Court, it would not be appropriate to announce a date.
Nonetheless, “we’ll press for early disposal of the dispute,” he said.