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OPINION | CONGRESS FACING DILEMMA OVER RAM TEMPLE

This comes in the backdrop of point-blank refusal by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to attend the January 22 Pran Prathistha event.

Rajat Sharma Written By: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Published on: January 16, 2024 17:44 IST
India TV Editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma
Image Source : INDIA TV India TV Editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma

Twenty four hours before Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in Kohima that the January 22 consecration of Lord Ram’s idol in the Ayodhya temple “is a political event”, almost the entire top leadership of UP Congress visited Ayodhya on Makar Sankranti (Monday), took a dip in Saryu river and paid obeisance to Ram Lala at the makeshift temple near his birthplace. UP Congress chief Ajay Rai, Congress MP Deependra Hooda, UP Congress in-charge Avinash Pandey, Akhilesh Pratap Singh, Supriya Shrinate and others chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram”, “Jai Jai Siyaram”, “Siyavar Ramchandra Ki Jai”. This comes in the backdrop of point-blank refusal by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to attend the January 22 Pran Prathistha event. They had been invited by Sri Ramjanmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, but the three leaders declined to attend, saying that it was a “BJP-RSS event”. In Kohima, Rahul Gandhi said, “it will be difficult for us to go, as the prime minister, who is our principal opposition, has made it into an election event….We are with all religions. Whosoever wants to go, even from the Congress, can go. BJP-RSS have given the event an election flavour.”  In Ayodhya, state Congress chief Ajay Rai said, Ramlala idol is already installed and he finds no reason why another Pran Pratistha ceremony is being conducted. There was a brief commotion when some devotees of Ram snatched the Congress flag from party workers and tore it. Police had to intervene to separate the two groups. 

The Congress leaders tried to meet the Mahant Raju Das of Hanumangarhi temple, but he refused to meet them. Later Mahant Raju Das said, he dislikes the “dual policy” of Congress, because on one hand the Congress government had refused to recognize the existence of Lord Ram in Supreme Court and refused to attend the consecration event, and on the other hand, their leaders are coming to Ayodhya to pay obeisance to Lord Ram. “We won’t allow such dual characters in the birthplace of Lord Ram”, he said. Congress leader Avinash Pandey said, they had come for darshan of Ramlala to pray for peace and prosperity in UP. One needs to ponder why Congress is indulging in obfuscation. The leaders of UP Congress realize the ground reality that millions of people in UP are devotees of Lord Ram, and this was the reason why UP state unit leaders went to Ayodhya to take a dip in Saryu river. On the other hand, the party high command has decided to keep a distance from the consecration event. The central leadership cannot oppose the Pran Pratistha event in public, as it can  have serious political repercussions. This is the dilemma being faced not only by Congress but by most of the parties which are part of INDIA opposition bloc. In Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee is going to take out an “all religion” rally on January 22 after offering prayer in Kalighat temple.  

In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party leaders on Tuesday took part in recital of Hanuman Chalisa and Sundar Kand in most of the assembly constituencies. Kejriwal has announced that AAP legislators and ministers will organize Hanuman Chalisa recital on the first Tuesday every month in Delhi. I remember, in 2020, AAP had started Hanuman Chalisa recital in Delhi and had vowed to recite Hanuman Chalisa every Tuesday, but this did not happen. Nobody knows when they stopped doing this. Now since most of the people in India are openly taking part in religious events in praise of Lord Ram in the run-up to the consecration ceremony, Kejriwal has opted for Bajrangbali (Lord Hanuman), the foremost devotee of Lord Ram. Already, AAP MP and former cricketer Harbhajan Singh has said that he will visit Ayodhya to pay obeisance to Ramlala. Harbhajan’s googly may put Kejriwal in a fix, but already there are speculations in political circles that Harbhajan Singh may turn the ball and reach Ayodhya carrying the lotus flower (BJP election symbol) in hand. These are mere speculations. The fact remains that Hindus in India and across the world are happy that a grand Ram temple has been built in his birthplace. This is not a political event. After a gap of 500 years, Lord Ram will find his place in a grand temple in Ayodhya. It would be better if all major political parties eschew their differences and join the celebrations in Ayodhya. They should listen to the advice of the Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peeth Sadananda Saraswati. 

On Congress party questioning why the event is taking place even before the temple is not fully built, the Shankaracharya said, this is nothing but an effort to find excuses. Pran Prathista is a religious programme and the opportunity has come after five centuries. The building of Ram temple in Ayodhya is a symbol of fulfilment of the dreams of more than a billion Indians. It is not good to drag the shankaracharyas in this issue. The seer of Dwarka Peeth clarified that there are no differences among the shankaracharyas. He explained that the seers follow a strict regime, a set of daily rituals. All the shankaracharyas have promised to visit the temple after the consecration event, according to their convenience. Chandrakant Sompura, the architect who prepared the design of Ram temple, said only the sanctum sanctorum needs to be ready for carrying out the Pran Prathista ceremony. His grandfather Prabhashankar Sompura had prepared the design of Somnath temple, where the consecration was done in 1951 by India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad. At that time too, Sompura said, only the Garbha griha (sanctum sactorum) was constructed and the completion of temple work took place in 1955. P.K.Lahiri, trustee-secretary of Somanth Temple Trust, also said that work on Somnath temple walls continued even till 2020 and the Pran Pratistha was done when the sanctum sanctorum was ready. I think Congress and other anti-Modi political parties have committed a mistake by refusing the attend the consecration ceremony. Congress has 52 Lok Sabha members and it has let a big opportunity slip from its fingers. 

Congress leaders must understand that there is unprecedented enthusiasm among millions of Indians over the inauguration of Ram temple, and they include millions of Congress supporters and voters. They hail from those families who have been waiting for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya since 500 years. Now that the historic moment is going to arrive, the entire nation is watching in wonder, the enthusiasm of millions of Ram devotees. Minor issues like why the shankracharyas are not attending, why Narendra Modi is the ‘yajmaan’, why the temple is not fully built, do not matter to these devotees. People know that these herrings are being raised by those who are opposed to Modi. Some opposition leaders say, we will go earlier, while some say, we will go after January 22. Their own leaders say, if one has to go to see the temple, why not on January 22, Pausha Shukla Dwadashi, when the Abhijeet Muhurtha (sacred time) will witness the consecration? Why should they miss being part of history? It should not happen that they may be forced to watch the consecration ceremony LIVE on television and then rue their fate that they missed the historic chance. Such opportunities never come again in history.

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