The focus of the country should be on containing the spread of the pandemic rather than on the issue of the Ram temple, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said while addressing a press briefing on August 5 to explain the COVID-19 situation in the State.
Asked for the reaction of the State government to the bhoomi puja ceremony for the Ram temple at Ayodhya, he said: “I think we should be focussing on the more important issue. COVID-19 cases have risen to over 19 lakh in India. In my opinion we should be thinking about how to overcome that challenge. There are people who are being pushed into poverty as a result. We should be thinking about how to help them. Other things can be dealt with later.”
In response to another question, the Chief Minister said: “If the Congress had a clear stand on the issue of secularism, the country would not have had to face such a fate now.”
Asked whether the statement of Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi (that the ground-breaking ceremony for the Ram Temple would be ‘a celebration of national unity, fraternity and cultural harmony’) indicated a change in the stand of the party, he said: “There is nothing surprising in Priyanka Gandhi’s response. We all know what the response of the Congress has been all these years. The stand adopted by Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao is all part of history now. The Congress stood a mute spectator when the Babri Masjid was demolished. We must also remember that the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML, a Congress ally in Kerala) also stood with the Congress at that time,” the Chief Minister said.
Earlier in the day, the national leadership of the IUML met at Panakkad in Malappuram and, in the context of Priyanka Gandhi’s statement, came out with an innocuous resolution that said: “We express our disagreement with the statement issued by Priyanka Gandhi on the construction of the temple in Ayodhya. Her statement is very much out of place.”
Some of the leaders of the IUML, a close ally of the Congress in the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition in Kerala and a party that played a key role in ensuring Rahul Gandhi’s victory in Wayanad in the last Lok Sabha election, had initially expressed extreme unhappiness with the statement of Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and others.
But with elections to the local bodies and the State Assembly fast approaching, the party obviously decided to restrain itself from making any further comment on the issue.
However, the Chief Minister was unsparing in his criticism of both the Congress and the IUML. He said: “There is nothing new in the statements made by Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi. The Congress had all along followed a policy of soft Hindutva. Who allowed prayers to be conducted at Babri Masjid? It was the Congress. Who allowed shilanyas for the temple there? It was a Congress government. Who gave permission to conduct kar seva for the temple? It was when the Congress was ruling at the Centre. Above all that, when Sangh Parivar cadres rushed into Ayodhya to destroy the Babri Masjid, who indeed had approached the problem with closed eyes and total detachment? It was a Central government under the leadership of the Congress Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. It was the Congress that played witness to the demolition of the Babri Masjid with complete detachment. What happened later was a natural corollary to all these events. We should also remember that the Muslim League has a history of standing with the Congress whenever such things had happened.”