L K Advani, the man who converted a local legal dispute into a national movement for the construction of the Ram Temple and infused it with the political capital that catapulted the BJP to power, will not be present when Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays the foundation stone for the temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday.
“Destiny made me perform a pivotal duty in the form of the Ram Rath Yatra,” Advani said on Tuesday, the eve of the ground-breaking ceremony. A year after the Palampur resolution of 1989, in which the BJP adopted the building of a temple at the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya as its political plank, Advani led the Yatra that galvanised the movement for the temple and split Indian politics into a deep and bitter secular-communal divide.
“Sometimes significant dreams in one’s life take a long time to fruition, but when they are finally realised, the wait becomes very worthwhile. One such dream, close to my heart is now getting fulfilled,” the 92-year-old Advani said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
The statement came when it was still not clear whether Advani had been officially invited for Wednesday’s Bhumi Pujan. VHP leaders said he had been advised to stay away given his age and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is laying the foundation for the construction of Shri Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Shri Ram. It is indeed a historical and emotional day not only for me but for all Indians,” Advani said.
“A grand Mandir for Shri Ram at Ram Janmabhoomi has been a desire and mission for the Bharatiya Janata Party,” Advani, who also issued a video statement, said.
“Destiny made me perform a pivotal duty in the form of Ram Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in 1990, which helped galvanise the aspirations, energies and passions of countless participants,” Advani said.
“On this auspicious occasion I want to express my gratitude to the scores of Saints, leaders and people from India and the world over who made valuable contributions and sacrifices in the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement,” he said. The Rath Yatra triggered communal violence across the country and contributed to the circumstances that led to the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid mosque in 1992. But on Tuesday, Advani expressed happiness that due to the decisive verdict of the Supreme Court in November 2019, the construction of the temple was beginning in “an environment of tranquility”.
“This”, he said, “will go a long way in strengthening the bond between Indians. Shri Ram occupies an esteemed place in India’s cultural and civilisational heritage and is an embodiment of grace, dignity and decorum. It is my belief that this temple will inspire all Indians to imbibe His virtues.”
The veteran, who is still facing trial in the demolition case, said he believed the temple would “represent India as a strong, prosperous, peaceful and harmonious nation with justice for all and exclusion of none so that we can truly usher in Ram Rajya, the epitome of good governance”.