ANI Photo | “Did not intend to hurt sentiments”: Cong chief Kharge amid BJP salvoes over temple snub

Amid discordant notes within a section of the party and perceived public anger over the refusal by top leaders to attend the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ of Shri Ram Lalla at his birthplace in Ayodhya on January 22, Congress national president Mallikatjun Kharge on Friday said the decision wasn’t intended to hurt anyone’s sentiments or any religion.
Earlier, Congress bigwigs–Kharge, former national president Sonia Gandhi and the party’s Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chiwdhury–turned down the invitation to the Pran Pratishtha ceremony, calling it a ‘BJP-RSS’ event.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, the Congress president said, “We have already said that if anyone wants to visit Ayodhya (for the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ event on January 22), they are free to go anytime they want. However, the BJP has been targeting us relentlessly over our decision not to attend the event. This is unfair. Our decision was not intended to hurt the sentiments of any person or religion.”
“We want to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi: what steps has he taken to curb inflation and unemployment? We would also like him to list out the steps he has taken to secure our borders. These are issues that directly affect the country and its people,” Kharge added.
Ever since the Congress’s snub to the Ram Temple invite, the BJP has been taking pot shots at the grand old party, accusing it of denying the country’s identity and soul.
Coming down heavily on the Congress on Friday, former Madhya Pradesh CM and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, “The Ram Mandir is our Rashtra Mandir (national temple) and Prabhu Shri Ram is intrinsic to our existence and faith. He represents the country’s identity and soul. So, by turning down the invitation to attend the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ at Ayodhya, they have denied our civilisational roots and national identity. This is unfortunate.”
The grand old party has been questioning the timing of the mega ceremony, with the Lok Sabha elections around the corner.
Congress leader Pawan Khera on Friday queried whether the event would be held under the guidance of the Shankaracharyas of the four peeths–the major shrines in the country.
“There is a system and set of rituals around ‘Pran Pratishtha’. If this event is religious, then why is it not happening under the guidance of the Shankaracharyas of the Four Peeths? All four Shankaracharyas have said clearly that the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ cannot be done in an incomplete temple. So, if this event is not religious, then it has to be political. I cannot accept some leaders of a party serving as middlemen between me and my avowed deity. Some of our politicians are acting like ‘Thekedars’ (contractors). Which ‘Panchang’ did the BJP refer to before finalising the date? The date was chosen keeping the (lok Sabha) elections in mind,” Congress leader Pawan Khera said on Friday.
Earlier, on Thursday, senior Congress leader TS Singh Deo questioned the timing of the ‘Pran Patishtha’ ceremony at the grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya, close to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. He alleged that the event is not ‘purely religious’ and has distinct ‘political undertones’.
Speaking to ANI on Thursday, the former Chhattisgarh deputy chief minister claimed that the temple was being inaugurated even before completion, with an eye on the upcoming general elections.
Asserting that no leader in the opposition has any objection to the opening of the Ram Temple and is respectful of the deity and the public sentiments around him, the Congress leader said, “If this (‘Pran Pratishtha) was purely religious, then nobody would have had any objection. But this is totally political. Why did they (BJP) have to schedule the ceremonial function on January 22, before the completion of the temple construction? It has all been done with an eye on the (Lok Sabha) elections. Why was the event scheduled for January 22? Why is it being done with the elections around the corner? That is what people have objections to. Nobody objects to Lord Ram.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to preside over the ‘Pran Pratistha’ and ceremonial opening of the grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya on January 22.
Vedic rituals for the ‘Pran-Pratishtha’ ceremony of Ram Lalla (infant Lord Ram) in Ayodhya will begin on January 16, a week before the main ceremony.A priest from Varanasi, Lakshmi Kant Dixit, will perform the main rituals of the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony of Ram Lalla on January 22. From January 14 to January 22, Ayodhya will mark the Amrit Mahotsav.
A 1008 Hundi Mahayagya will also be organised, in which thousands of devotees will be fed. Several tent cities are being erected in Ayodhya to accommodate thousands of devotees, who are expected to arrive in the temple town of Uttar Pradesh for the grand ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony.
According to the Sri Ram Janambhoomi Trust, arrangements will be made for 10,000-15,000 people.
Local authorities are also gearing up for the anticipated surge in visitors around the grand ceremony and are in the process of implementing enhanced security measures and making logistical arrangements to ensure a smooth and spiritually enriching experience for all attendees

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