Sena keeps Ram temple issue on boil

The Shiv Sena, a key ally of the BJP, on Monday kept the Ram temple issue on the boil by demanding that a grand shrine in Ayodhya be built during the tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Sena demand in the Lok Sabha comes as the BJP struggles to keep extremist elements in the party on a tight leash and not divert the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's focus from the development agenda Modi is pursuing assiduously.

“Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had expressed inability to build the grand Ram temple citing coalition compulsion. Now, the BJP has majority on its own. There should be no delay,” said Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire.

Khaire said one of the litigants in the Ayodhya case, Hashim Ansari, has also expressed his desire “to see a temple being constructed”, and some Muslim women too had met Modi with a similar demand.

He continued to speak despite appeals by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, contending that the matter was in court. It is learnt that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray congratulated Khaire for raising the issue.

Members of the Congress and Left parties launched vociferous protests only to be drowned by the thumping of desks by BJP and Shiv Sena members.

Later, Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said the NDA leaders were raking up emotional issues only to divert attention. The Sena demand comes at a time when the Modi government is yet to take a decision on inducting the ally’s nominees into the Council of Ministers. The allies had had a bitter parting of ways in Maharashtra, and contested the election separately.

The BJP went on to form the government in Maharashtra by virtue of being the single-largest party. It was forced to join hands with the Shiv Sena as it was short of the majority mark. The Shiv Sena got 10 ministerial berths in the state.

As per agreement, the Sena was to get two ministerial berths at the Centre as well, which is yet to happen.

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