Written by Dharmendra Joshi
In what may embarrass the Congress party, its veteran leader and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh Tuesday said he favours the construction of a Ram temple at the same spot where the Babri mosque stood in Ayodhya and accused the BJP of lacking the willpower to build it.
The veteran Congress leader’s view is at variance with his party which has said it would abide by the judicial verdict on the issue.
“Islam came to India later. The mosque was built after demolishing the temple in Ayodhya. Ayodhya was the capital of Bhagwan Ram. When you have taken this step (of demolishing the Babri Masjid), build the temple. (Agar ye kadam uthaya to phir mandir bana do),” the veteran Congress leader said. Talking to PTI at his residence, Holly Lodge, here, the former Himachal chief minister also accused the BJP of lacking the courage to build the temple. “If they had the courage, they would have built it. The way should be paved for constructing the Ram Mandir there,” he said.
Sitting by his side, Congress Legislative Party leader Mukesh Agnihotri said, “The BJP lacks the willpower for building the temple.”
Singh, however, made it clear that his views on Ram temple are personal. Claiming a “sure victory” for the Congress on Kangra and Shimla (SC) Lok Sabha seats, out of the total four in the state, Singh said, “I will start campaigning after attending the general house meeting (the party workers meeting) in Kangra on April 15.”
He, however, avoided a direct reply when asked why he did not attend the party workers meeting in Mandi on Tuesday.
“Party president Rahul Gandhi has already addressed a public meeting in Kangra a few weeks ago. He will definitely address more election rallies in Himachal in May. We will also like Priyanka Gandhi to address at least one rally in HP as she has a house in state capital Shimla,” he said.
Singh said he was not averse to sharing the dais with his “political bete noire” Sukh Ram during electioneering. Sukh Ram, a former Union telecom minister, joined the Congress along with grandson Aashray Sharma recently. Congress has fielded Aashray from Mandi Lok Sabha seat.
“If any such situation arises, I will definitely share the dais with him. I have no such differences with him as has been made out in the media. If the party has given its blessings to him and fielded his grandson, I am fully with him,” said Singh.
“I am, however, personally against the ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’ politics,” he added, referring to the practice of switching parties.
Responding to a query on Aashray’s father Anil Sharma, who is a minister in Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government in the state, Singh said, “He will join the Congress sooner or later. Instead of hanging like a pendulum, he should start campaigning for his son”.
Anil Sharma had earlier said that we will neither campaign for his son nor for the BJP candidate.
The former CM also brushed aside reports that he was seeking party ticket for a family member from Mandi. “Neither I nor any of my family members applied for the ticket.”
Singh also sounded critical of the party leadership’s decision to field sitting MLA Ram Lal Thakur from Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat. Thakur has been a five-time MLA and a former minister in the state government. “I favoured Sujanpur MLA Rajinder Rana’s son Abhishek Rana to be fielded from Hamirpur. Rajinder Rana defeated BJP’s CM candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal in the last assembly elections from Sujanpur and his son Abhishek would have been a better choice for Hamirpur,” he said.
In reply to a question on a section of the party leaders favouring CLP leader Agnihotri’s candidature from Hamirpur, Singh said, “As an aggressive politician, Agnihotri is required more in the state than the Centre at this juncture”.
Replying to a question on his MLA son Vikramaditya Singh’s recent Facebook post expressing apprehensions of raids by the CBI and Income Tax department at their residence like the ones conducted at Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s close aides, the former CM said, “My life is open to all and the property I own is my ancestral property.”
Singh and some of his family members are facing trial in a Delhi court in a disproportionate assets case.
About reports that he has been “appreciation” the present state government’s work, he said, “I have never appreciated the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government’s work in the state. The chief minister and other BJP leaders are wrongly quoting me as appreciating his government in their rallies. If I have appreciated his work, let them show on record when and where did I do that. They should not spread false propaganda”.
On the Congress’ “poll USPs” in the state, Singh said, “We will campaign on three points. First, we will concentrate on unfulfilled promises of the Modi government, second, we will spread awareness about promises made in our manifesto and third, we will apprise people of the failures of the Thakur government.”
With PTI inputs