Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Saturday asserted that the presence of opposition leaders at the consecration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya could have relegated them to a supporting role in a programme which, he claimed, belonged to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Supporting the Congress leadership’s decision to skip the January 22 event, Mr Tharoor expressed willingness to visit the temple after the general elections are over when all the political focus on the shrine dies down.
“The Congress’ position is very very clear. The Congress party members are free to have their own religion and religious beliefs, and everyone’s religion is respected by the party. So I go to temples to pray, and not to political events,” the Thiruvananthapuram MP said.
“This particular event (consecration of Ram temple) was essentially going to relegate the opposition invitees to a kind of supporting role for a prime ministerial starring spectacle. I did not think that Congress needed to play such a supporting role,” he told reporters.
Senior Congress leaders including party president Mallikarjun Kharge, former chief Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury have ‘respectfully declined’ the Ram Temple consecration ceremony invite.
Mr Tharoor further emphasised that people should understand that the BJP has no monopoly on either Lord Ram or any of the Hindu deities.
“But I am quite sure that a large number of Congress people will go outside the political context. I, myself, would love to go and see the temple (at Ayodhya) but I would do it only after the elections, after all the political focus dies down. We do not want to be part of BJP’s political exercise,” he told reporters.
Unwilling to take questions on the ongoing seat-sharing fiasco between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress, Mr Tharoor said that the matter is being looked after by the leadership of his party.
“This whole alliance or seat-sharing is being discussed on a state-by-state basis. No one is going to have a one-side fix-all solution,” he said.
Mr Tharoor also dodged a question on whether the Congress is looking to survive in West Bengal with the support of the TMC.
He said, “We are all focused on the imperative need of changing the Union government. The government of Mr Modi and the BJP in New Delhi will need to be changed and that is the ultimate objective of all of us,” he said.
On the possibility of Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar joining hands with the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Tharoor said, “I am following this in the media. This is not in my area of responsibility. When such a development occurs, you will hear it from the party.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)