Door shut on politics of division: Congress backs SC’s Ayodhya verdict
“The issue is not to credit or discredit any individual, group of people, communities, organisations or political parties. The Supreme Court has respected the faith and belief,’’ Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said at a press conference.Updated: Nov 11, 2019 15:45 IST
The Congress on Saturday backed the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, saying the Supreme Court’s ruling that paved the way for it respects faith and has “shut the door” on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s divisive politics.
“The issue is not to credit or discredit any individual, group of people, communities, organisations or political parties. The Supreme Court has respected the faith and belief,’’ Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said at a press conference.
The press conference followed an emergency meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), to firm up a stand on the court verdict. A resolution passed after the meeting held at Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence said that the party respected the verdict.
“We appeal to all the parties concerned and to all communities to abide by the secular values and spirit of fraternity enshrined in our Constitution and to maintain peace and harmony,” the resolution said. “It is the responsibility of each one of us to reaffirm our tradition of mutual respect and unity among all that has defined our society through the ages.”
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi could not attend the meeting as he is abroad.
At the press conference, Surjewala underlined that Lord Ram is for all. “The verdict has opened the doors for the construction of the Ram Temple but it has also shut the door on the divisive politics played by the… BJP for decades,” Surjewala said. “I will also remind all that the entire land [in question] was acquired by the Congress government at the Centre in 1993 by way of the Ayodhya Act,” he said.
The Centre acquired the land after the demolition of the Babri Mosque built over it on December 6, 1992 through a law passed in 1993.
The CWC meeting was scheduled for Sunday but was held a day earlier after the Supreme Court said it will pronounce its ruling on the title case on Saturday.
Sonia Gandhi chaired a hurriedly called meeting of senior leaders at her residence on Friday to take a call on the CWC meeting and the party’s stand on the issue.
Before the CWC meeting, the party issued an advisory to its leaders, functionaries and office bearers asking them not to speak out of turn on the issue and wait for the party’s official stand in the form of the resolution.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra separately urged all parties to respect the judgement and maintain India’s age-old tradition of harmony and brotherhood. “All parties, communities and citizens should respect the decision and maintain our centuries-old culture of living in togetherness. We all have to together strengthen mutual harmony and brotherhood,” she tweeted.
A section of Congress leaders, especially from North India, have been calling on the party to talk about the 1986 ‘shilanyas’ or the ground-breaking ceremony for the temple and the 1993 acquisition of the land in Ayodhya to counter the BJP.
The ‘shilanyas’ at an undisputed site close to the disputed location happened when Congress’s Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. Rajiv Gandhi also ordered the unlocking of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in 1986. A priest had till then been allowed to perform prayers once annually since idols were installed there in 1949.
“While we should talk about secular traditions and pluralistic ethos of the country, it is important that we should not be seen as an anti-Hindu party. Playing soft Hindutva is also not a good idea and could be counterproductive,” said a senior Congress functionary on the condition of anonymity.
Rahul Gandhi’s frequent temple visits in the run-up to elections have prompted his political rivals to accuse him of playing a “soft Hindutva” card as part of the party’s attempt to change its perceived pro-minority image. The image was seen as one of the contributing factors for its decimation in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Rahul Gandhi became the first member of his family to visit Ayodhya in September 2016 since the Babri Masjid’s demolition. Rajiv Gandhi visited Ayodhya in 1990.
The image makeover was in line with the findings of four -member panel led by former Union minister AK Antony that looked into the reasons for the 2014 debacle.
In its report, the panel concluded that the secularism versus communalism plank hurt the Congress as it was identified as a pro-minority party and resulted in substantial gains for the BJP.
The Congress separately suspended an ongoing 10-day nationwide agitation over the current economic slowdown, agrarian distress and unemployment due to the imposition of Criminal Procedure Code’s Section 144 that bars assembly of over four people in large parts of the country.