In the run-up to Lok Sabha polls next year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Saturday that the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya is not an election issue for the BJP. He also maintained that the government has not absolved former deputy CM Ajit Pawar in the irrigation scam case, the probe into which is at a “very crucial stage”.
In an interview to The Indian Express, Fadnavis said, “Ram temple is a commitment given by the BJP. But it is not an election issue for the party. For us, it is a matter of asmita (identity) and faith…”
With Lok Sabha polls only months away, the Ram temple issue has resurfaced to the centre stage of politics with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat demanding that the government should bring a law to build the temple. This has elicited support from Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who is likely to visit Ayodhya soon.
“The Ram mandir already exists. What we are discussing is building a magnificent temple at Ayodhya. There are only two ways to do it. The Parliament can make a law. In the past, it had done so in case of Somnath temple. Else, the court has to give a decision,” said Fadnavis, whose government will complete four years in Maharashtra on October 31.
While expressing happiness over Shiv Sena’s decision to “return to its Hindutva roots”, Fadnavis said it could be a bridge to bring the BJP and the Sena together for pre-poll pact ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha and state elections.
“Till now, BJP was the only party talking of Ram mandir. If Sena has also taken up the issue, it brings greater support and strength to the cause. In the past, late Bal Thackeray had accepted Hindutva. I feel the Shiv Sena is going back to the roots,” the CM said.
Downplaying Sena attacking the Modi government at the Centre and the BJP government in Maharashtra, Fadnavis said, “I will describe it as positive criticism.”
On the multi-crore irrigation scam, Fadnavis said that th
e government has not absolved Ajit Pawar, whose name has come up during probe. “When there is rampant corruption, it is evident that either the minister was hand in glove or is grossly incompetent… the matter is in court. At this moment, I would like to say that Ajit Pawar has not been absolved and the case is at a very crucial stage.”
Asked whether industrial growth has slowed down, Fadnavis said the state has got Rs 3.36 lakh crore foreign direct investment, which accounts for almost 49 per cent of the total FDI received by the country. “Domestic industrial investments are at Rs 1.64 lakh crore. The MoUs, worth Rs 8 lakh crore, which were signed during ‘Make in India’ summit, are in various phases of progress. As many as 45 lakh jobs have been generated. Moreover, Maharashtra has become a start-up capital, leading with 2,130 out of total 10,950 such units registered in India,” he added.