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Published on: July 27, 2020, 12:09 a.m.
Ram temple by 2024
  • The Ram mandir gets the final political touches

By Rakesh Joshi. Executive Editor, Business India

The Ram temple is back in the nation’s political agenda. By finalising August 5 as the date for the Ram Mandir ‘bhoomi pujan’ in Ayodhya, a clear political message has been sent out as the date that marks the first anniversary of the revocation of J&K’s special constitutional status with the reading down of Article 370 of the constitution. These were long-standing demands of the Sangh parivar. That they should be clubbed together now symbolically and the Ram temple’s construction will be completed by 2024, when national elections are due, tells its own tale.

Before that, the plan of a Ram temple in the works will come in handy to BJP for first the Bihar election and later the West Bengal election in 2021.

At a time when the Corona virus pandemic is raging and lockdown and Unlock 2.0 restrictions prohibit religious and other large gathering, the political leverage that the televised event could yield cannot be underrated. The Modi government and most BJP-ruled states are on the defensive over the handling of the pandemic and the Chinese incursions in Ladakh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will himself be a key part of the Ram temple strategy. This is evident from his proposed presence at the 5 August ceremony. Incidentally, there is no mention of former deputy PM L.K. Advani, the political architect of the temple movement, in the new scheme of things.

The Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust which made the announcement met in Ayodhya under the chairmanship of former top bureaucrat Nripendra Misra. A retired UP-cadre IAS officer, Misra is former principal secretary to Prime Minister Modi and has held several key assignments, including chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Earlier this year, after his retirement, he was named chief executive officer of the trust which has been entrusted with the task of temple construction. While Misra kept himself away from media, it was the trust’s general secretary Champat Rai and member Kameshwar Chaupal who came forward to make announcements.

According to Rai, the entire plot of 67 acres had been levelled as a part of preparations for building the temple. According to him, “leading construction company Larsen & Toubro was already on the job doing testing of the soil etc., while architect Chandrakant Sompura who had prepared the original design for the temple was giving final touches to the plan in accordance with the suggestions made by the trust.”

Sompura, whose family is credited with the design of several prominent temples across the country, is now touching 80, but still quite enthused about giving a final shape to the shrine.

According to Rai, “Since a bulk of the stones required for the temple were sculpted and ready, the construction of the temple could be completed between 36 and 42 months.” Significantly, that would mean by the middle or end of 2023 – just about six months before the next general elections in 2024. What kind of bearing the completion of the new Ram temple will have on electoral outcomes can be anybody’s guess.

Sompura, the Ahmedabad-based architect, says the temple is estimated to cost Rs50 crore to Rs60 crore. It will be built with pink sandstone, to be mined and brought from Bansi Paharpur, Rajasthan. The same stone was used to build the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, also a work of Sompura. In fact, he has built over 100 temples, including Swaminarayan temple in Neasden – said to be the largest temple in the world.

Last November, the Supreme Court had decided the title of the disputed site on the basis of evidence, clearing the way for the construction of a temple. The Supreme Court order on the Ram Janmabhoomi running into over 1,000 pages, said that dispute essentially boils down to the claim over land and is not a matter of faith.

The 5-judge constitutional bench led by ex-Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi ruled that there was no evidence offered by Muslims to the disputed inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction, of the now razed Babri Masjid, in the sixteenth century.

“As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century,” the order read.

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