Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Kharge declines Ram Mandir Ceremony Invitation

On the horizon of Ayodhya, a monument of faith rises anew. The consecration ceremony of Ram Mandir, scheduled for January 22nd, 2024, promises to be a landmark occasion, drawing in millions of devotees and dignitaries. However, amidst the anticipated grandeur, a discordant note has emerged. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, former party chief Sonia Gandhi, and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, have all “politely declined” the invitation to attend. This seemingly simple decision unravels a complex tapestry of politics, faith, and the ever-evolving relationship between the Congress party and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

A Web of Reasons:

To understand the Congress’s stance, one must delve into the layers of their reasoning. Jairam Ramesh, the party spokesperson, pointed an accusing finger at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), alleging that they have “made the temple a political project.” The proposed ceremony, he asserted, is “brought forward for electoral gain,” aimed at garnering political mileage on the back of religious sentiment. This accusation stems from the BJP’s long-standing association with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, leveraging it as a rallying cry during election campaigns. Additionally, the timing of the ceremony – just months before crucial state elections in Uttar Pradesh – bolsters the Congress’s suspicion of political opportunism.

National Festival, Selective Invitation:

Further fueling the Congress’s reservations is the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to elevate the ceremony to the status of a “national festival.” This, they argue, undermines the apolitical and inclusive nature of a religious event, turning it into a platform for partisan display. The selective nature of the invitations also raises eyebrows. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with prominent BJP leaders, are expected guests, amplifying the perception of a BJP-RSS orchestration. For the Congress, attending such an event would risk endorsing a potentially politically motivated spectacle, which clashes with their principles of religious neutrality and political transparency.

A Party Divided?:

Within the Congress itself, a subtle discord prevails. While the central leadership has chosen to stand by its reservations, some state units, like Kerala, have vehemently opposed attending the ceremony. Conversely, Himachal Pradesh’s Chief Minister has readily accepted the invitation, highlighting the personal dimension of faith that transcends party lines. This internal dichotomy reveals the complex interplay between political strategy, individual conviction, and the ever-present shadow of historical baggage.

Echoes of the Past:

The Congress’s stance cannot be understood in isolation from its historical relationship with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The party, often portrayed as representing secularism, found itself embroiled in the Ayodhya dispute during the tumultuous 1990s. The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, an event attributed to the Sangh Parivar, further strained the relationship between the Congress and the Ayodhya movement. The scars of that legacy undoubtedly inform the party’s current caution, leading them to tread carefully amidst the charged atmosphere of the consecration ceremony.

Beyond the Decline:

Despite declining the invitation, the Congress has unequivocally acknowledged the Supreme Court’s 2019 judgment that paved the way for the temple construction. Additionally, they have affirmed their respect for the “sentiments of millions who revere Lord Ram.” This nuanced stance seeks to reconcile principled opposition to political exploitation with respect for religious faith. It is a balancing act born out of the complex realities of India’s political and religious landscape.

Ram Mandir and the Politics of Faith:

The Ram Mandir consecration is not just about bricks and mortar. It is a potent symbol of faith, political identity, and historical memory. The Congress’s decision to decline the invitation, therefore, transcends the realm of mere attendance. It represents a carefully considered political and ideological statement, one that raises important questions about the intersection of faith and politics in contemporary India. In choosing to stay away, the Congress has chosen to prioritize its own vision of religious neutrality and political non-interference, even if it means missing out on a momentous occasion. This decision, undoubtedly, will be dissected and debated in the days and weeks to come, adding another layer of complexity to the already-intricate narrative of the Ram Mandir saga.

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