Ahead of the upcoming Supreme Court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit case, two senior Congress leaders, former Union minister Jitin Prasada and former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat, have said that they want to see a Ram temple built in Ayodhya, but added the apex court verdict would be supreme and should be accepted by all.
The remarks by Rawat and Prasada, members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), come at a time when the Congress has begun discussions to craft its response to the verdict. On Friday, a high-level panel set up by Congress president Sonia Gandhi met to deliberate on the party’s response to sensitive political issues such as the upcoming Ayodhya verdict, NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
While the party had been maintaining that the Supreme Court verdict should be accepted by all, at least one top leader said the party’s response will, in fact, be crafted on the basis of the verdict. “The party’s response will depend on the manner in which the court frames its verdict,” the leader said.
Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, another member of the CWC, said the Ayodhya issue is no doubt an emotional and sensitive one and “we have to take into account all this also… about the sensitiveness, about emotional matters. Any decision has to be taken after thorough discussion… that is my view.”
Sources said that ever since the Lok Sabha defeat, there has been a strong demand in the party for a mechanism to ensure collective thinking and decision making. There have also been demands for the revival of the Parliamentary Board. “This group will deliberate on important matters but it will not have organisational decision making powers,” a source said.
There have been divergent views in the party on key issues such as the abrogation of Article 370, NRC, the Citizenship Amendment Bill, and now, Ayodhya.
Rawat and Prasada, both hailing from the Hindi heartland, said they want to see a Ram temple built in Ayodhya.
“As a Hindu, of course, I want a temple there. But there is also a law of the land. The Supreme Court verdict should be accepted by everybody, whatever the verdict may be. The verdict should come out as early as possible and put at rest all debate on this. It is time to move on and all communities should live in harmony,” Prasada told The Sunday Express.
Rawat echoed Prasada’s views. He said the Congress’s stand had been that it is a land dispute and the Supreme Court verdict should be respected by all. “There should be no politics over it and it is the government’s responsibility to stand by the Supreme Court verdict and implement it peacefully.”
Asked about his personal view, he, however, said, it is not just him but “you ask anyone… every Indian would say that a Ram temple should be built in Ayodhya. Whosoever you ask, even if you ask our Muslim brothers, even they would also say that if not in Ayodhya, where else would a Ram temple be built.”
“The question is about a particular place. I am not an authority. The authority is the Supreme Court. Its verdict should be respected by all….we hope the Supreme Court will find a solution which will be acceptable to all,” he said. “When we are talking about building a temple, we are not standing with a measuring tape… I believe that there should be a Ram temple in Ayodhya,” he added.
Rawat said the Congress had in the past tried to build a temple in Ayodhya, “but they (the BJP) played politics over temple and complicated the matter. They converted into a vote-bank issue”.
Senior leader Salman Khurshid, on the other hand, said there should not be any speculation before the Supreme Court delivers its verdict. “Hope the Supreme Court will do its best as it always tries to do. It has put in a lot of effort. So we should repose faith in the Supreme Court and let’s hope for the best..,” Khurshid said.
“No government howsoever well intentioned, no opposition howsoever objective, no litigant, no stakeholder can settle this fractious matter expect by an apex court judgment imparting necessary finality, stability and weight to the decision. In fact, I personally believe that even efforts at mediation were misplaced because they will always be some segment of some stakeholder who will remain unsatisfied and will not be consensual. Hence, it is best that the apex court decides it this way or that and brings to an end a highly divisive issue pending for decades,” Rajya Sabha MP and the party legal brain Abhishek Singhvi told The Sunday Express.
Sources said the Sonia-led panel will meet again to discuss the party’s stand before the Supreme Court delivers its verdict. Besides former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi, the members of the panel are Ahmed Patel, A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Anand Sharma, Ambika Soni, Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, Jairam Ramesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kapil Sibal, K C Venugopal, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Sushmita Dev and Rajeev Satav.