Where does the Congress really stand on the Ram Mandir?
Even a day after the prana-pratishtha ceremony in Ayodhya, we are not sure. What is not helping matters is the stance of the Congress government and unit in Karnataka.
Siddaramaiah, The Athiest
In the past, CM Siddaramaiah has claimed to be an atheist and a rationalist.
In 2011, he said that he is an atheist. Just a couple of years later, he said that he was 'neither an atheist nor a theist' on a Kannada news channel in 2013 once he was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Karnataka for the first time.
Recently, news reports described him as a 'known rationalist who is even seen as being borderline atheist' even as he inaugurated a Ram temple in Bengaluru on January 22.
In 2018, he called himself a 'Hindu who believes in humanism'. While a few media reports termed him as an 'agnostic who performed aarti', others called him 'spiritual'. (One of his own government department's website describes him as being an atheist.)
Siddaramaiah, The Devotee?
Recently, as the whole nation was warming up to prana-pratishtha in Ayodhya, Siddaramaiah stated that Lord Rama does not belong to the BJP.
He also accused the BJP of forgetting Sita, Hanuman and Lakshman. Interestingly, he called himself a 'Ram Bhakt' and said that people who revere Ram and Hanuman do not need to display their devotion.
In the speech he was delivering yesterday on January 22, he also took the names of Lord Ram, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Hanuman and Basavanna.
He said that he is 'walking the talk' by implementing all their teachings. After stating that "Ram expects from politicians only to build a Ram Rajya full of peace, and co-existence", he added that he is also planning to visit Ayodhya.
On one occasion, he remarked (albeit jokingly, he claims) that he is 'afraid' to be near people with kumkum mark or tilak drawn on their forehead. During his previous tenure, police personnel were banned from wearing earrings and bangles to work.
When he took over as the chief minister once again this year, the Muzrai Department got into trouble for reportedly issuing a circular stopping grants for development work in Hindu places of worship. After a backlash against the Congress, Minister Ramalinga Reddy called for the order to be withdrawn.
Recently, his government arrested Shrikant Poojari, a Hindu activist, by reopening a 31-year-old case against him.
Confusion In The Congress Party
Notably, earlier in the month, senior Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, along with party president Mallikarjun Kharge had 'respectfully declined' the invitation to the 22 January event in Ayodhya. However, multiple Congress leaders had expressed happiness at the event and some even attended it.
Karnataka Congressmen too, happen to contradict the Congress' stance on the matter. Congress MLA Priya Krishna in Bengaluru organised celebrations in his constituency and also distributed sweets to people in his locality.
At the inauguration of a Ram temple in Bengaluru's Mahadevapura, CM Siddaramaiah himself stated that he is not an atheist and raised 'Jai Shri Ram' slogans. He said that he made time for the temple's inauguration despite having a busy schedule and having to prepare for the upcoming budget presentation in the assembly.
"I have been tagged an atheist. But, I have Rama in my name (Siddaramaiah) itself", he said. He added that he used to take part in bhajans held at his village of Siddaramanahundi in Mysuru.
Even as there have been restrictions imposed in coastal Karnataka on celebrations around the Ram Temple event, Congress leaders have compared CM Siddaramaiah to Lord Rama.
Clearly, Congress and confusion are not going to be separated anytime soon.
Sharan Setty (Sharan K A) is an Associate Editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @sharansetty2.
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