After BJP chief Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today attacked the Congress over its leader Kapil Sibal's plea in the Supreme Court to defer hearing in the Ayodhya case till after the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Prime Minister said that while he has "no problems with Kapil Sibal representing Muslims," he questioned his plea to postpone hearing till 2019, asking, "Why does he have to link Ram Mandir with elections. Is this thinking proper?" The row comes four days before the first phase of assembly elections in Gujarat, where the BJP has accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of visiting temples to draw Hindu votes.
"Yesterday in the SC, a Congress MP Kapil Sibal was arguing for the Babri Masjid. He is entitled to do that but is it right for him to say postpone hearing till 2019? Why does he have to link a Ram Mandir with elections. Is such thinking proper?"
"Now Congress links Ram Mandir with elections. They are least bothered about the nation."
On Tuesday, Sibal, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board, requested to set the date for the next hearing after July 2019 since “the case has ramifications on polity of India.”
The special bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer agreed with him and said that it is not an ordinary suit. " But we need to start somewhere," they said. The Court on Tuesday posted the case for hearing on February 8, 2018.
In his election campaign speech, Modi also took a dig at Rahul Gandhi's temple visits. “BJP has done development in Gujarat by adding using every single penny. It is not done by visiting temple after temple."
Modi also spoke about the triple talaq. "I will not be silent" on triple talaq. “Everything is not about elections. This issue is for the rights of women…elections come later humanity comes first,” he said.
“When the triple talaq matter was in Supreme Court, the government had to put their affidavit, newspapers commented that Modi will remain silent because of UP polls. People told me not to speak on the matter else there will be losses in elections,” Modi added.
As the campaign for the first phase of Gujarat Assembly elections comes to an end on Wednesday, PM Modi is expected to address three consecutive rallies today in Dhandhuka, Dahod and Netrang.
PM Modi was addressing an election rally in Gujarat's Dhandhuka, when he hit out at the Congress over Mr Sibal's remarks. "Now the Congress links the Ram Mandir with elections. They are least bothered about the nation," he said.
25 years ago today, the 16th century Babri mosque was demolished in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, by Hindu karsevaks or volunteers who claimed that it was built where a temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram had stood. The Supreme Court is hearing the claims of Hindu and Muslims to the disputed site.
Kapil Sibal, who is also a lawyer, was representing the Sunni Waqf Board in the Supreme Court on Tuesday when he requested judges to postpone hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute till after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, arguing that the BJP has said "the Ram temple will be built before 2019 through legal means... They want to make it part of their election manifesto and the court should not fall into the trap."
The Supreme Court rejected his appeal and said it would begin final hearings from February 8 on a batch of petitions that have challenged a 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict which divided the disputed site in three parts -- one each for Hindu group Nirmohi Akhara, the Ram Lalla or infant Lord Ram represented by the Hindu Mahasabha, and the Sunni Waqf Board which handles properties owned by Sunni Muslims.
All the parties have challenged the High Court verdict in the Supreme Court.
The Congress has distanced itself from Mr Sibal's comments, saying "who he represents in court is Kapil Sibal's personal matter. The Congress has nothing to do with it." Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also said his party's stand "has always been clear, that the Ayodhya case will be decided by Supreme Court."
Surjewala was responding to BJP chief Amit Shah, who said the Congress and its boss Rahul Gandhi must clarify their stand on the Ram temple. The BJP, Mr Shah said, is clear it wants the dispute resolved at the soonest. "The Supreme Court should give a judgment and a grand Ram temple should be built in Ayodhya," he said.
Shah also referred to Rahul Gandhi's frequent visits to temples during his Gujarat campaign. "On the one hand, temples are being visited ahead of elections. On the other hand, they are trying to delay hearing of the Ram Janmabhoomi case. The Congress has double standards on the issue," the BJP chief alleged.
The BJP, whose political growth was powered by its Ram temple campaign in the 1990s, has in recent years relegated the issue to the back pages of its election manifestos. But the appointment of saffron-robed priest Yogi Adityanath as UP chief minister earlier this year was seen to indicate that the party could again bring back the Ram temple issue to the forefront of its agenda as it preps for the 2019 national election.
Yogi Adityanath has asserted that building a Ram temple is a key agenda, including in his campaign for the BJP in Gujarat, which votes for a new government on December 9 and 14. Votes will be counted on December 18. The BJP has ruled the state for the last 22 years.