Press Trust of india

 BJP sees it as step towards building Ram temple; Cong questions timing

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Govt plea on Ayodhya land…

New Delhi, Jan 29: Weeks before the national elections, BJP leaders on Tuesday sought to present the central government's move to return undisputed land in Ayodhya to its original owners, including Ram Janambhoomi Nyas, as a step towards starting "work" on building a Ram temple in the city of Uttar Pradesh.

However, Congress questioned the timing saying people will decide on the intent of its "sudden" move which has come merely two months before the general elections.

With the RSS-led Hindutva organisations pushing for a law to build the temple at the disputed site, a BJP leader said the government's plea in the Supreme Court is an attempt to redress the "deep sense of anguish of Ram devotees and the BJP cadres".

The comments came hours after the Centre asked the Supreme Court to allow it to return the "non-disputed" surplus land acquired around the disputed structure in Ayodhya to the Nyas and other original owners.

The leader recalled that the biggest applaud the BJP president Amit Shah's speech in the party's recent convention had received from thousands of delegates was when he reiterated the party's commitment to the temple construction.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's brief mention of the emotive issue had also drawn loud cheers, he said.

Amid demands for a law, Modi had said that his government would wait for the apex court's decision on the matter but the "delay" in the matter has been causing consternation among the 'sadhus' and the party's core Hindutva supporters.

Underlining the significance of the government's petition, the senior government functionary and the party leader said, "We have to be concerned about their sentiments. People who want a Ram temple have always supported us. There has to be political massaging by the government that we care for their emotions."

Separately, BJP leader and Union minister Prakash Javadekar held a press conference at the party's headquarters here and said the Nyas, a trust which is among the largest original owners of the undisputed land that the government had acquired and has offered to return, wants a Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

He indicated that the government's plea in the Supreme Court to return excess land around the disputed site to its original owners could pave the way for construction of the Ram temple.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a prominent Hindutva face of the party, also hailed the government's move and hoped permission would be granted to start work on the undisputed land.

"We welcome this initiative of the Central government. We should get permission to start work on the undisputed piece of land," he said in Allahabad.

Underlining that the government is not touching the disputed land in Ayodhaya, Javadekar said only 0.313 acre of land is disputed for which the title suit is yet to be decided.

"Today the government has taken a very important in-principle decision to return the excess land, which was acquired in 1994, to the original land owners. Out of 67 acres of undisputed land, the land owner for 42 acres is the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas. Government wants to return the land to its original owners and they want to build the Ram temple there," Javadekar said.

He maintained that the BJP has always said a temple should be built in Ayodhya through a legal route and the government's decision is a legal step.

"We are confident that the government will get permission from the court at the earliest," Javadekar said.

The BJP has in its manifesto always underscored its commitment to building the temple at the site where once stood the Babri mosque, which was razed by right-wing extremists on December 06, 1992.

With the general election round the corner, the party believes its show of intent for building the temple could consolidate its core supporters, whose indifference to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2004 was seen by many political watchers as one of the reasons for the BJP's surprise loss.

Meanwhile, The Congress on Tuesday questioned the timing of the Centre's application in the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya matter seeking permission to return undisputed "surplus" land to its original owners, saying people will decide on the intent of its "sudden" move which has come merely two months before the general elections.

The opposition party, however, said that it has "no opinion" on the plea for a change in status quo that has been maintained for 16 years and it was a matter between the Supreme Court and the Centre.

Congress spokesperson Abhshek Singhvi said the court had in its 2003 order clearly stated that status quo be maintained on undisputed land around the disputed site in Ayodhya and moving an application now raises questions on the government's intentions.

"You will draw your own conclusion, the country will draw its own conclusion.... What is important is that this application is moved on January 29, 2019, 16 years afterwards, in a matter of 2003 where the main writ of 2003 is pending," he told reporters.

"This status-quo has been continued for 16 years. Suddenly and suddenly...you know it better, whether it is because of election or some other reason, we do not know. 16 years later, they say please give me permission two months before elections to give that land to anybody and for that purpose please modify that order.... So, you judge for yourself, but ultimate judge is the Supreme Court," Singhvi said.

The Congress leader also said, "We have nothing to do with this matter which is yet to come up in court. The court will decide... whether application will be allowed, dismissed, or modified, that is between the Supreme Court and the applicant."

On what the Congress felt was the government's intent in moving an application in the case now, he said, "We do not have an opinion and we do not intent to have an opinion on an application by you to be decided by the Supreme Court. Why should I have an opinion? You have to ask this to central government."

Facing growing pressure to move swiftly on the Ram temple issue, the Modi government Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to allow it to return the "non-disputed" surplus land acquired around the disputed structure in Ayodhya to a Hindu trust and other original owners, in a significant move ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The move could see some form of construction of a Ram temple by Hindu groups if the handover is allowed, amid pressure from the RSS and Hindutva groups on the Centre to facilitate this step.

In its 33-page application, the Centre sought modification of the apex court's 2003 order to permit it to return 67.390 acres of "non-disputed" surplus/superflous land around the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid structure in Ayodhya to the original owners. The court had held that unless the dispute is resolved, status quo has to be maintained over surplus land.

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