Vocal in support for Ram temple now, Congress seeks to change its pro-Muslim party image
Ever since the hammering at the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has been trying hard to change its image as being pro-Muslim.Updated: Aug 05, 2020 19:15 IST
The apparent shift in the Congress’ stand on the Ram temple in Ayodhya is widely attributed to the party’s attempt to change the perception of being a pro-Muslim party that was listed by the AK Antony-led panel in 2014 as one of the major reasons for its worst-ever electoral performance in the Lok Sabha polls that year.
For the past six years, the grand old party has been trying hard to change that image.
Though the Congress had all along maintained that it will abide the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya issue or support any negotiated settlement arrived at by the parties concerned, it had held that the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 was a “shameful and criminal act for which the perpetrators must be brought to justice”.
It had never been this vocal in its support for the construction of the Ram temple. Barring few exceptions that too privately, majority of Congress leaders had come out in support of the move.
Tasked to look into the reasons for the 2014 Lok Sabha poll debacle, a four-member committee, headed by former defence minister AK Antony, in its report concluded that fighting elections on secularism versus communalism plank had hurt the Congress as it was identified a pro-Muslim party which resulted in substantial gains for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi also tried to change that opinion with his frequent temple visits during subsequent elections that prompted his political rivals to charge him with playing a “soft Hindutva” card.
He had also visited Ayodhya in September 2016, becoming the first member of the Gandhi family to visit the holy city in 26 years. His father and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had visited Ayodhya in 1990.
On Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi said Lord Ram is the ultimate embodiment of supreme human values and can never appear in cruelty, hatred or injustice but did not mention the bhoomi pujan ceremony at Ayodhya in his tweet unlike his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
“Maryada Purshottam Lord Ram is the ultimate embodiment of supreme human values. He is the core of humanism embedded deep in our hearts. Ram is love, he can never appear in hatred. Ram is compassion. He can never appear in cruelty. Ram is justice, he can never appear in injustice,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Soon after the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya came in November last year, the Congress not only welcomed it but also sought to take credit for paving the way for the construction of the Ram temple.
The Congress insisted that it was the party-led central government that had acquired the 67 acre land outside the disputed 2.77 acre land in 1993 to maintain the law and order.
The opposition party also sought to remind its detractors that it was the Rajiv Gandhi government that allowed the ‘shilanyas’ or a ground-breaking ceremony at an undisputed site close to Babri Masjid and had also opened the doors of the Ram temple in 1986.
The credit-taking exercise by the Congress was in line with a view of a section of its leaders, especially from North India, asking that the party should talk openly about the ‘shilanyas’ at Ayodhya in 1986 and the acquiring of land during its tenures to counter the BJP.
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, the PV Narasimha Rao government had acquired the disputed site and 67 acres of land surrounding it through a law passed in 1993. The land included pockets of government land, a disputed shrine and land belonging to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. But the Nyas opposed the take over and said the land should be handed over to its rightful owner.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, met on November 9 last year and unanimously passed a resolution, welcoming the judgment and favouring the construction of the Ram temple.
“The Indian National Congress respects the verdict of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya case. 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.
The issue also resonated at a meeting between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party’s Rajya Sabha members on July 30. Deepender Singh Hooda said the Congress leaders should speak in one voice and stick to the CWC resolution on the issue as it is attached to the sentiments of millions of Indians.
On Tuesday, Priyanka Gandhi had expressed the hope that the groundbreaking ceremony in Ayodhya would be a celebration of national unity, brotherhood and cultural harmony.
“Lord Ram belongs to everybody. Lord Ram wants everybody’s welfare. That is why he is called ‘Maryada Purshottam’,” she said in a statement.
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath hosted a ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ recital at his residence in Bhopal on the eve of bhoomi pujan on Tuesday and announced that 11 silver bricks, bought from contributions by Congress members, will be sent for the construction of the temple.
In Chhattisgarh, chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has announced construction of a “magnificent” Mata Kaushalya (mother of Lord Ram) temple in Raipur and developing religious tourist circuits of Valmiki Ashram at Turturiya, where twins of Lord Ram, Luv and Kush, were said to have born.
A 1,000 year-old Shiv temple in Rampal area of Jagdalpur district, believed to have been established by Lord Ram during exile, will also be renovated, the Congress government had said in a statement on Monday.
Congress party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala and former union minister Manish Tewari welcomed the bhoomi pujan ceremony, saying this was an occasion to resolve to follow the path of ‘Dharma’ set by Lord Ram.
A Congress leader on the condition of anonymity dismissed suggestion that the grand old party has shunned ‘soft-Hindutva’ and adopted the ‘hardline Hindutva’ stand, saying Lord Ram is a unifier, the protector and the voice of the oppressed and the deprived and an assimilation of all cultures, castes, class and religions.
“The nation and its people must now decide who depicts these values – the assimilating, cohabitating, all-inclusive ideology of the Congress party or the inherently divisive, hateful and parochial ideology of the BJP-RSS,” he said.