As calls for construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya grow louder, Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has offered a solution -- build a university instead. The decades-old Ram temple issue has assumed significance ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year. The Supreme Court has decided to hear the case in January, but several right-wing groups -- including the RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) -- have been demanding an early decision or a special order.
"Ask both Hindus and Muslims and if both the communities agree, then build a university there. Let children of Hindus, Muslims and Christians... Indians as well as foreigners come and study there together. Ram rajya (reign) won't be created through any temple, but through education," the senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader told NDTV.
The Arvind Kejriwal government had marked education as one of its priority areas -- taking up time-bound programmes to improve the infrastructure of schools and employing more teachers.
And for youngsters in Ayodhya, education and jobs are more important than mandir and masjid. "Where are the jobs, the factories," a student asked. The BJP's development mantra, they say, has not reached their world-famous city.
"The development of Ayodhya has been completely stuck because of this issue," said Syed Dildar Rizvi, student of English Literature at the Saket College in Ayodhya. "If Ayodhya is developed, bigger companies will come here. We will get jobs and our lives will change. We deserve that," he added.
Meanwhile, a rally was taken out by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Delhi to push for the construction of the Ram temple on Saturday. Kar sevaks chanted "Jai Shree Ram" and "Mandir Yahin Banayenge" on their way from the Jhandewala temple, from where the Sankalp Yatra was flagged off. The nine-day yatra will end at the Ramlila Ground on December 9.
The rally's organisers claimed that the Supreme Court was delaying the temple's construction by not taking up the matter urgently, and want the centre to introduce an ordinance in this regard.
BJP National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, however, said that his party was not thinking of bringing an ordinance "as of now" but reassured that it was only the BJP that could construct the Ram temple at Ayodhya as "no one else has the guts" to do it.
The temple issue, he said, did "more harm than good" to the BJP as the matter was used by the opposition "to terrorise minorities and polarise votes", he said according to news agency PTI.
"We would appeal to the court once again for a verdict on the issue. When a matter is in court, we should not be in a hurry and give it enough time to take a decision," Mr Vijayvargiya said.
Last week, two separate events were organised by the VHP and the Shiv Sena in Ayodhya. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a date when the construction of the Ram temple will begin.
"Day, months, years and generations have passed. Mandir wahin baneyenge, par date nahin batayenge (You say you will make the temple there, but won't tell the date)," the Sena chief had said.
Soon after, in what was seen as an attempt to blunt the barbs aimed at the BJP over the Ram temple, the Uttar Pradesh government announced key details of the Ram statue it plans to build on the banks of the Sarayu river. At 221 metre, the statue is expected to be taller than the famed Statue of Unity in Gujarat.
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