Avinash Pande, the Congress national general secretary and newly assigned incharge for Uttar Pradesh, announced on Sunday that he, along with approximately 100 other state office-bearers, plans to visit Ayodhya on January 15, coinciding with Makar Sankranti.
The delegation which will visit Ayodhya ahead of the consecration ceremony of Ram Mandir, includes the state co-incharge Dheeraj Gujjar, Rajya Sabha MP Pramod Tiwari, former provincial president Nirmal Khatri and state unit chief Ajay Rai.
During the visit, the leaders will take a dip in the Saryu River, and then visit the Ram temple and Hanumangarhi temple, Rai said on Sunday.
Describing the plan in detail, Rai said, “A decision has been taken to visit Ayodhya on January 15. At 9.13 am, the Sun will become ‘Uttarayan’ (northward movement of the Sun), and at 9.15 am, we will depart for Ayodhya chanting ‘Jai Siya Ram’ after observing the tradition of breaking coconut.”
When asked about the possible controversy the visit could trigger, Pande answered that the Congress has never opposed the Ram temple or stopped anyone from visiting Ayodhya, and asked the media “not to spread this myth”. Pande also claimed that the temple is being constructed according to the orders of the Supreme Court and with the contribution and efforts of everyone.
“This is a question of faith… Shri Ram resides in our hearts. The only thing is that the politicisation of the faith and sentiments of people is happening for polarisation, that is what I and my party are upset about. There will be no compulsion, whosoever wants to go can join us,” he said.
“Every person is free to follow his or her faith, and we respect everyone. Earlier, it was the question of my personal faith, but yesterday (Saturday) when we were talking to members of the advisory committee, many people said they wanted to go, and there was unanimity that they too would go. We said that anyone who wants to come can join,” he added.
Pande and other Congress leaders will visit Ayodhya a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi begins the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra (BJNY), the second leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY).
Congress has been lately drawing severe criticism around its approach towards Hindu symbols. Many have pointed out the paradox in the way how the party upholds “Ram Mandir” overlooking its deplorable historical trajectory, yet criticising the BJP for the appropriation and politicisation of the issue, simultaneously.
The consecration ceremony (pran pratishtha) of the Ram Mandir is scheduled to be held on 22 January.
The temple stands where the Babri Masjid, which was torn down by a mob of Hindu nationalists on December 6, 1992, earlier stood.
The construction began after the Supreme Court of India on 09 November 2019 ordered the entire land to be allocated for the temple, granting amnesty to the perpetrators of the demolition.