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Congress, allies in fix as Ram temple politics peaks

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, JMM’s Hemant Soren unsure of attending Ayodhya ceremony while Didi lashes out at BJP

Cong allies in fixNEW DELHI/LUCKNOW/RANCHI : The Congress found itself in a sticky situation on Thursday with some of its state units and allies upping the ante over attending the consecration ceremony of Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22. Though three of its top leaders – Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury – have received invitation from Nripendra Misra, chairman of the Ayodhya Ram Temple Committee, the party is yet to pronounce its stand on the issue.

The confusion has enveloped some INDIA bloc partners with Samajwadi Party chief remaining ambiguous in his stance. “We belong to the legacy where temples are visited only if God summons. If Bhagwan calls, I will go,” he said while interacting with media on the sidelines of a party event at SP headquarters here on Thursday.

“I leave the house after having darshan. While going down the stairs, I take darshan of God, as I step out of the gates, I take darshan of God every time. Now, you tell me which God I should go to for darshan?” he said, replying to a question over his participation in the consecration ceremony.

Earlier, BJP MP Subrata Pathak demanded a ban on the entry of SP leaders in the Ayodhya Ram temple as “they were instrumental in opening fire on the Kar sevaks.” In Ranchi, JMM executive president Hemant Soren said he would definitely attend the inaugural ceremony, if invited. “So far I have not received any invitation,” said the CM. “I have been going to temples, mosques, gurdwara and churches …I have no problem in going there”, he said.

In Delhi, when asked if the senior leaders will attend the temple event, Congress general secretary (organization) KC Venugopal told the media that ‘the party will not fall into the trap of the BJP. “ That party is politicizing the event. The Congress has already made our position clear. There is no pressure on us,” said Venugopal. However, the Congress leader evaded a direct question on if it would be attending the consecration ceremony. Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge also did not respond to queries.

However, striking a different note, CWC member and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said he would not attend the inauguration and that he considers matters of faith to be personal and temples a place to “connect with the divine”, rather than a stage for “political theatre”.

Meanwhile, many Kerala leaders have publicly expressed their reservations about the top leaders attending the event. By declining the invitation, the ruling CPM has also scored over the Congress in Kerala.
The party’s ambivalent stand on the issue has received flak from its ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and other outfits that are aligned with it. The Muslim outfits have also slammed the Congress’ soft Hindutva approach to garner Hindu votes in the heartland states.

The West Bengal unit of the Congress is also learnt to be against the top leadership attending the event. However, leaders from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are keen that the party should attend the ceremony to avoid electoral fallouts. Earlier senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said that Sonia Gandhi is positive about the invitation and she or a delegation will attend the event.

The Congress also faces pressure from its INDIA allies as parties such as TMC, JD(U), RJD and Shiv Sena (UBT) are unlikely to attend the event. Opposition parties have slammed the BJP for turning the event into a political programme. “This is all politics, who wants to attend an event organised by the BJP? This is BJP’s programme. We will visit Ayodhya after BJP’s programme is over,” said Sena MP Sanjay Raut.

Mamata flays BJP for playing politics on religion
Addressing a rally in North 24 Parganas on Thursday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lambasted the BJP for playing politics over religion. Without referring to the inauguration of Ram Mandir on January 22 in Ayodhya by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she accused the saffron camp of playing the religion card before every election. “Following religion is an individual’s affair. But a festival involves all, irrespective of their religious belief. Before every election, they (BJP) play the religion card,” said Mamata.

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