Shabbir arrived in Ayodhya on a special train booked by Shiv Sena. The 38-year-old devout Muslim man is among the thousands of party supporters ferried to the town in Uttar Pradesh from Maharashtra to greet Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and to mobilise support for the construction of Ram temple at the disputed Babri Masjid site.
Thackeray arrived, accompanied by wife Rashmi Thackeray and son Aditya Thackeray, who is also Yuva Sena chief, on a private chartered plane. He met Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas President Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. Invoking his father and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, he said: “This is my first visit to Ayodhya. I am here for a darshan of Ram Lalla. There is no politics involved.”
He also urged the Narendra Modi government at the Centre to fix a date for the construction of the Ram temple. “Day, months, years and generations have passed,” he said. “Mandir wahin baneyenge, par date nahin batayenge (You say you will make the temple there, but won’t tell the date) “First say when will you construct the temple, the rest we will talk later.” Shiv Sena is part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
Thackeray added: “We shall support the government if it passes an Ordinance or legislation for the construction of the temple.”
Shiv Sena had planned for a bigger programme on Sunday but was denied permission by the district administration. The state government has deployed about 70,000 security personnel in the town, about 130 km east of Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow, ahead of a programme planned by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The VHP claims 20,000 supporters will attend its religious parliament on Sunday to push for a law to expedite the construction of the Ram temple.
Thackeray and his entourage of Shiv Sena supporters are also expected to leave for Maharashtra on Sunday.
Opposition leaders in the state have slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena for raking up the Ram temple issue ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year. “To divert attention from their failures, they raised the issue. Had their intentions been good they needn’t have waited for five years. It’s their political tactic, nothing else,” the Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said.
Samajwadi Party chief and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said: “The Supreme Court should take notice of the situation in Uttar Pradesh. It should seriously consider the matter and bring in the Army.”
With additions from PTI