Disquiet in Congress as some veterans openly support Ram temple

Devotees celebrate the start of the Ram temple construction in Ayodhya (Photo: PTI)

Open support to the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya by some of its veterans has led to disquiet in a section of the Congress with a Kerala MP petitioning party president Sonia Gandhi against "chasing extreme religious nationalism".

Articulating the disquiet, TN Prathapan, the party's Lok Sabha MP from Thrissur, in a letter to Sonia Gandhi, has questioned the support senior Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh extended to the construction of the temple, saying it is like "bowing low for temporary successes".

"We cannot chase an extreme religious nationalism with its soft prototype," Prathapan has said in the letter while supporting the stand of Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on the temple, but objecting to former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Nath going to the extent of saying he would send silver bricks for its construction.

Nath and Singh recently backed the groundbreaking ceremony of the Ram mandir, with Nath saying former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was also in favour of the temple and had even spoken of the establishment of "Ram Rajya".

Prathapan, in his letter sent to the party chief on August 4, said Priyanka Gandhi's call for national unity was accepted by everyone in the party.

Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP from Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram, also questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech on the groundbreaking ceremony of the temple, saying, "PM Modi congratulated 130 crore Indians when he spoke at the Ram Mandir.... But India's population is estimated at 1,38,00,04,385 in mid-2020, according to UN data. An omission of 8 crore people is worrying to many, after CAA/NRC. If inadvertent, a correction would be reassuring."

Tharoor's reference was apparently to Muslims, who account for a substantial chunk of voters in Kerala.

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi represents Wayanad, which is in the southern state, in Parliament. His guarded response to the temple event was also seen to be in line with the sentiments of Kerala, which Prathapan said was "secular and liberal in approach".

Notwithstanding the Kerala MP's letter to Sonia Gandhi and latent anxieties over the stand taken by Singh and Nath on the temple, the Congress on Friday said there is no disquiet in the party on the issue.

"The Congress is a vast ocean in which a lot of rivers fall. We have different opinions but the facts are for everyone to see. Facts do not change, opinions may vary. The Congress has consistently said on the Ayodhya issue that the courts shall decide and the verdicts of the courts will be acceptable to all. I do not see any point of a debate after that," party spokesperson Pawan Khera said.

Another senior Congress functionary said "there is no disquiet in the party and our stand on the issue is clear as articulated by AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has said the construction of the Ram temple should become a harbinger of national unity".

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