Accusing the BJP of being “champions of fake Hindutva”, Congress MLA Paresh Dhanani, who has been named as the party’s leader in the Assembly, said that he will renovate Ram temples in all the 116 villages of his constituency, Amreli, from his own expense. The ruling BJP has dubbed his initiative a “political drama’’.
“While the BJP is selling the dream of building a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya, it has done nothing to renovate these Ram temples that used to be once associated with social and cultural life of the people belonging to all castes and communities in rural parts of Gujarat,” Dhanani told The Indian Express on Wednesday.
“If the BJP can’t even look after smaller Ram temples in the villages, what right has it got to create noise over Ayodhya and question Congress leaders’ visit to temples,” said Dhanani, referring to the BJP’s consistent attack over Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visits to temples in the run-up to the Assembly elections last year.
“But I say, I will go to temples, I will go to mosques, churches and gurdwaras because as a Congress leader I respect the Constitution and hold all religions in equal reverence,” Dhanani said as he accused the BJP of defaming the Congress as an “anti-Hindu party”.
Though Dhanani claimed that his latest initiative is a “socio-cultural” one, and not “political”, the move is being seen in political circles as a bid by the Congress to corner the BJP in Gujarat. Recounting his childhood, Dhanani said that Ram temples in his village served as the meeting point for the villagers every morning and evening “where they shared their joys and sorrows with each other”. “This not only brought happiness in their lives, but also served as means to reduce tension and curb suicidal tendency among the people who were under stress… But nowadays, Ram temples in the villages are in shambles. They are being looked after by low-paid priests. The old tradition of people assembling at the Ram temple has disappeared. As a result, there is no place for villagers to share their grief and sorrows with each other, thus driving people towards committing suicide,” said Dhanani.
“What I am doing is reviving the old tradition by linking faith with the old village culture in order to bring a new life in villages,” the 41-year-old leader said. He said that he will carry out the renovation work through his Parivartan Trust, which has been working in the field of promoting education, social and cultural values among the rural population since 1992. “We will provide a nagada (drum), a shankh (conchshell) and a bell in all these temples to revive the tradition of morning and evening aartis,” the Patidar MLA said, dismissing any political motive behind it.
Meanwhile, the state BJP hit out at him, calling it as a “political drama”’ of the Congress. “Previously, the Congress cheated people on the pretext of removing poverty. Now, they are trying to cheat them on the pretext of Hindutva. But the people of Gujarat know them and they will not fall victim to their bait,” said BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya.