In MP and Chhattisgarh, Congress tries to claim Ram legacy
The Congress is unwilling to allow the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to solely take credit for the Ram Temple construction in Ayodhya and has entrusted the job of countering its arch-rival on the issue to its leaders in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where Lord Ram is believed be have lived during his 14-year exile, functionaries aware of the matter said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the temple construction on August 5. A Supreme Court ruling in November ended a decades-old dispute and ordered that a Ram temple be built on the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya.
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath and Congress workers across the state plan to recite Hanuman Chalisa, or devotional hymn to Lord Ram’s companion Hanuman, on Tuesday. The Congress government in neighbouring Chhattisgarh has announced the development of three tourist circuits linked to Ram’s exile as part of the party’s attempt to claim his legacy.
Nath on Monday said the country knows that late former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was instrumental behind opening the locks of the disputed site in Ayodhya in 1985. He said Rajiv Gandhi gave his consent for laying a foundation stone for the temple in 1989. “In his first electoral speech in 1989, he [Rajiv Gandhi] talked about Ramrajya. This is all in the records. I wish to tell the young generation about this...,” Nath said. Nath earlier announced his participation in the Hanuman Chalisa recitation for the state’s“prosperity and happiness”.
Bypolls to 27 assembly seats are due in Madhya Pradesh. They are crucial for BJP’s government’s survival in the state. The BJP has 107 legislators and needs to win at least nine of the 27 seats to reach the majority mark of 116 in the 230 member state assembly. The Congress, which won 114 assembly seats in the 2018 assembly elections, now has 89 seats. The resignations of 22 legislators in March brought down the Congress government in the state and paved the way for the BJP’s return to power.
A Congress Parliament member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the recital is being organised to also send out a message that it was Rajiv Gandhi, who was instrumental behind “what we are going to see on August 5, and that the BJP only drew political mileage from the issue”.
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel announced on Sunday construction of a “magnificent” temple dedicated to Lord Ram’s mother, Mata Kaushalya, in Raipur as well as the development of religious tourist circuits also covering Turturiya’s Valmiki Ashram. Lord Ram’s sons, Luv and Kush, are believed to have been born at the ashram.
A 1,000-year-old Shiv Temple in Jagdalpur district, which Lord Ram is believed to have been established during the exile, will also be renovated, the Chhattisgarh government said in a statement on Monday.
“The way Shri Ram had established ‘Shivling’ in Rameshwaram [Tamil Nadu] before leaving for Lanka, the same way he had established ‘Shivling’ at Rampal area of Chhattisgarh as well, before moving from Northern to Southern part of India, and had performed customary rituals there,” the statement said. The statement said Lord Ram spent some time of his exile in the forest of Turturiya.
The projects related to Lord Ram will be part of Chhattisgarh government’s Ram Van Gaman Path Project (Ram Forest Travel Route) worth Rs 137.45 crore, the statement said. As part of the project’s first phase, nine of the 75 identified locations believed to have links with Lord Ram in the state will be developed and beautified.
Baghel on Sunday said Mata Kaushalya was from Chhattisgarh and Lord Ram spent a significant amount of time during his 14-year-exile there. He said their initiatives would generate employment opportunities.
Vijesh Lunawat, the state BJP vice-president in Madhya Pradesh, scoffed at the Congress’s attempts. “The country knows about the stand of the Congress and its leaders. Today, they are talking of Ram temple on seeing the massive sentiments of people across the country. It is better that they continue to practise the policy of [minority] appeasement that they have been practising for decades.”
Political analyst Girija Shankar said Nath and Baghel’s announcements suggest a vacuum at the party’s central level. “In fact, any stand like this should be decided by the party’s central leadership which is not existing as it appears. Further, the Congress leaders in these states firmly believe that Congress won 2018 assembly elections because of their soft-Hindutva approach. They have failed to understand that it is because of the then BJP governments’ failure that Congress was voted to power in both the states. That is why the party leaders do not want to deviate from soft-Hindutva line.”