The Shiv Sena, which is ruling Maharashtra with two parties of 'secular' credentials, is not allowing the power sharing deal affect its core support group. The party has demanded that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray be invited to the event. The party pointed out that it has given its "blood and sweat" for the temple movement since it started and Mr Thackeray has a better right to be there than "some people" who are "going to go to Ayodhya" to "break coconuts and participate in the ceremony".
The ground-breaking ceremony for the Ram Temple will be held in Ayodhya on August 5 and the temple trust has claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone -- a 40-kg silver brick. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and a number of other leaders will also attend the function.
"We have given our sweat and toil for the construction of the Ram Temple and if today it is finally happening then Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray must be invited to the event," said Pratap Sarnaik, the Sena MLA who has written to Gopal Das Mahant of the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust who is handling all the invitations.
"At the time the Ram Mandir issue became a national debate in the 1990s, at that time Sena Supremo Balasaheb Thackeray had openly supported the cause," Pratap Sarnaik said.
"Today some people are going to go to Ayodhya, they will break coconuts and participate in the ceremony. Where were these people at that time -- is a question people are asking?" Mr Sarnaik said.
The Sena is also demanding permanent representation in the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra -- set up on the directions of the Supreme Court to facilitate the construction of a Ram temple.
"Uddhav-ji is a very decent man and he doesn't say anything but as Shiv Sainiks, we feel that this should be done. We put in a lot of effort and it must be acknowledged," he added.
Shiv Sena Member of Parliament and spokesperson Sanjay Raut, however, told reporters earlier that Sena dies not need an invitation to go to the Ram temple.
"Ram Bhakts do not need an invitation… We all had gone to Ayodhya when Uddhavji became Chief Minister. This is not a political issue," Mr Raut said. But he also added, "Uddhavji will receive an invite and then we will chart a programme."
Sena's allies, the Congress and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party maintain attending the ceremony is Shiv Sena's decision and Mr Thackeray can attend the event in his personal capacity.
But they have made it views clear regarding the temple issue.
"Uddhav Thakrey is among invitees for bhoomi pujan of Ram Temple. He may participate respecting Covid 19 restrictions in his personal capacity. The head of a secular democracy should refrain from promoting a particular religious activity," NCP parliamentarian Majeed Memon tweeted.
Earlier NCP Chief Sharad Pawar had said, "Eradication of COVID-19 is the priority of the Maharashtra government, but some people think constructing a temple will help in its mitigation."
To celebrate 100 days in power, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had visited Ayodhya earlier this year and made a donation of ₹1 crore for the temple. Asked about the visit, state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said, "We are also believers of Lord Ram".