Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Maurya has hinted that the BJP could consider legislation to jump start the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya "if other options take time". Mr Maurya, formerly a Lok Sabha member from Phulpur near Allahabad, was responding to reports in local dailies that quoted him as saying that if the BJP had majority in the Rajya Sabha, they would have pushed legislation for the construction of the temple.
Asked if he had been quoted correctly, Mr Maurya said: "I am hopeful that the Supreme Court judgment will come soon and whatever hindrances there are to the temple construction, will be removed. In any eventuality, if there is a long delay in this process, then the sadhus want it, and the indications we are getting, I feel there should not be too much delay in the judgment, or it can be resolved through dialogue or the third option is to pass a law in parliament -- that option is open too."
A special bench of the Supreme Court is currently hearing a total of 14 appeals filed against a judgment delivered in 2010 by the Allahabad High Court. The court had ordered that the land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood, be divided equally among three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The temple issue had been pushed to the back of the BJP manifestos even in Uttar Pradesh. But the question has resurged ahead of next year's general elections.
In June, a top religious leader, Ram Vilas Vedanti, while sharing stage with Yogi Adityanath, said the Ram temple will be built in Ayodhya ahead of next year's general elections. A day later, Yogi Adityanath had referred to the temple plan, but obliquely. "When Lord Ram showers his blessings on Ayodhya, the Ram mandir will definitely be built and there should be no doubt about it. At least there shouldn't be any doubt among saints," the Chief Minister had said.
The same month, the BJP denied reports that party chief Amit Shah had made a statement at a meeting in Hyderabad, saying the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya would start before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
A Ram temple in Ayodhya is one of the key agenda of right-wing organisations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the BJP. Their support is expected to play a key role in Uttar Pradesh -- the state which sends the highest number of lawmakers in parliament.
Mr Maurya's comments have evoked a sharp response, with Asaduddin Owaisi, the president of the AIMIM, saying, "They failed on real issues -- like economy, unemployment and national security. Therefore, they have come to speak about the temple".
The BJP, he said, does not "want to wait for the Supreme Court order". "In a way, this is contempt of Supreme Court. Unless the matter is decided by the Supreme Court they can't do anything constitutionally," he said.