The Shiv Sena asked the Narendra Modi government on Thursday to start constructing the Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, joining other pro-Hindutva leaders in raking up the contentious issue ahead of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.
An editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana said the BJP with a brute majority in the Lok Sabha was well placed to settle the issue. “If the temple cannot be built today, it will never be built,” the Sena said.
The Sena comments followed BJP parliamentarian Subramanian Swamy and firebrand Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia asking the party-led government to start building the temple at the site where the Babri mosque was demolished by a Hindu mob on December 6, 1992.
The Sena’s stand on the temple is seen as an attempt to woo hardline Hindu voters in the state where it plans to expand its presence by fielding candidates in 200 constituencies, nearly six times the number of seats it had contested in 2012. It failed to win a single seat.
The BJP is attempting to capture power in UP – one of the most politically important states — where it has been out of power for 14 years.
However, the party has so far taken a neutral stand on the issue by refusing to openly speak about its construction, apparently not to antagonise the sizeable Muslim voters.
“There has been plenty of politics over the Ram mandir issue. Now, decide once and for how long you want to go on politicising it… Don’t just raise slogans, start picking up bricks,” the Sena mouthpiece said, taunting Modi by pointing out that his own constituency was in the state.
The Sena also reminded Modi that he did not give a clear answer when asked about the temple soon after being elected from Varanasi.
In May, BJP president Amit Shah had asserted that Ram Janambhoomi was an integral part of the BJP’s manifesto, but did not give a definite reply on how the party will deliver on its promise.
In an interview to a TV channel on Wednesday, Swamy said Ram mandir will be a crucial issue in the UP elections.
“If we don’t raise it in UP, then where will we raise it? It is on our manifesto and will definitely be our main focus,” Swamy was quoted as saying.
Togadia added to the growing chorus. After Narendra Modi used the ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogan to start and end his speech at Lucknow’s Aishbagh Ramlila on Tuesday, Togadia asked the prime minister to build the temple.
अब ‘जय श्रीराम’ नारा लगाया ही है, तो संसद में क़ानून पारित कर तुरंत भव्य राम मंदिर अयोध्या में राम जन्मभूमि पर बना ही दें! pic.twitter.com/fIiXV8P48r
— Dr Pravin Togadia (@DrPravinTogadia) October 11, 2016
BJP leaders, however, remained non-committal.
“We appreciate the emotions and faith in Ram mandir and even (the) BJP manifesto is a reflection of that faith and emotion. However, being a responsible government, we have to follow the Constitution, which says either though discussion or court,” BJP secretary Sidharth Nath Singh said.
The party’s UP president Keshav Prasad Maurya too said the party will contest the polls on the development plank “rather than the Ram temple.”