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Twenty-five years since the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute cast its shadow on the Gujarat Assembly polls on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah and other party leaders led the narrative on the issue, alleging the Congress doesn’t want a temple to be constructed on the disputed site.
Modi addressed three rallies on Wednesday — in Dhandhuka, Dahod and Netrang. In Dahod, the PM said Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal has argued in the Supreme Court that the court should adjudicate on the dispute after the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. “He is entitled to do that (argue), but is it right for him to say postpone hearing till 2019? Why does he have to link a Ram Mandir with elections? Is such thinking proper? What has election to do with the temple,” Modi asked.
Incidentally, Sibal has also suggested a reservation formula for the Patidar community. At a rally in Bhavnagar on Monday, Modi had accused the Congress of trying to fool the Patidar community on the issue.
On the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, the PM said the Sunni Waqf Board, which Sibal was representing at the apex court, has said it disagrees with their lawyer’s arguments and the court should give its verdict. He said he welcomed the Sunni and Shia Waqf Board’s statements on the issue, which contribute to unity of the country. “But, trust the Congress to put up obstacles in the path that leads to peace and harmony,” the PM said.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the PM was rattled as he can see the BJP’s defeat in Gujarat, and was now trying to mislead people by talking about Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, the Mughal dynasty and Aurangzeb, but unwilling to answer the questions the Congress has raised on 22 years of misgovernance in the state. Surjewala asked why the Modi government, in the 42 months of its tenure, had not asked its Attorney General to petition the court for an early verdict on the dispute. He said the PM should also respond to allegations that BJP leaders embezzled funds collected for the Ram temple.
As for Sibal, the Congress spokesperson said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had represented Subrata Roy of Sahara and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had given opinion in the Bhopal gas tragedy case that Union Carbide could not be held responsible. “Let the PM first throw the two out of his Cabinet and the BJP,” Surjewala said.
The Congress spokesperson asked why the PM, on the advice of his “good friend”, advocate Harish Salve, was trying to conspire to derail the reservation formula the Congress party has suggested for Patidars.
Surjewala said the Congress would amend the Constitution to provide for reservation to the Patidars.
In Dahod, the PM also spoke about last year’s surgical strike.
Modi said a newspaper published how the Pakistan Army took back truckloads of bodies, but the Congress doubted the bravery of our soldiers. He said some had advised him not to speak about the Triple Talaq issue during the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls as it could cost his party votes, but the issue was one of humanity.
It being the death anniversary of B R Ambedkar, the PM said: “When Pandit Nehru's influence on the Congress was complete, the Congress ensured that Dr Ambedkar found it tough to join the Constituent Assembly.”