Congress workers protest against the Ayodhya land deal in Lucknow on Monday
The Congress has urged the Supreme Court to investigate the land deal in Ayodhya under which a plot was allegedly bought by the Ram Temple Trust for Rs 18.5 crore from buyers who had minutes earlier purchased it for Rs 2 crore.
The Opposition party has also asked for a comprehensive audit of the cash donated by people for the construction of the temple, arguing that Ram symbolises faith and justice and that there can be no bigger sin than committing a fraud using the Lord’s name.
The Sangh parivar ran a door-to-door fund collection drive and gathered around Rs 3,000 crore for a Ram temple in Ayodhya, after the Supreme Court paved the way for the construction of one.
“The Ram Temple Trust was constituted by the Prime Minister on instructions from the Supreme Court. The entire fund collection should be audited under the court’s supervision,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Monday.
“The Supreme Court should constitute a special investigation team (SIT) to examine the collections, the expenditure and all the land registrations,” he added.
On Sunday, at separate media briefings, leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party and the Samajwadi Party had made the allegation of fraud. Both parties have sought probes by the CBI and the ED.
The Congress stressed on the immorality of a fraud in the name of Ram to corner the RSS-BJP ahead of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, where the start of the temple construction in Ayodhya could have been flagged as a big achievement by the ruling party.
Surjewala asked: “Will the Prime Minister answer who gives patronage to sinners? Who are playing with the people’s faith in Lord Ram? How many more plots were purchased in the name of a temple in Ayodhya?”
He added: “Those who deceive the Gods will not spare human beings. Trade in the garb of faith is a sin. The BJP has committed a sin by misusing the money given for the construction of the temple.”
As the Congress addressed media conferences in Delhi and Lucknow and held demonstrations seeking the resignation of chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Rahul Gandhi set the tone by tweeting: “Lord Ram is himself justice, truth and religion. Fraud in his name is irreligious.”
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted: “Crores of people contributed to the construction of the temple because of faith and devotion. Misusing that money is anti-religion, a sin, an insult of their faith.”
The Opposition has kicked up a huge ruckus to blunt the advantage in the election that the BJP could have got using the temple plank.
A temple-oriented discourse will now create space for an effective intervention by the Opposition, and the BJP might be compelled to tone down its rhetoric.
Giving the background, Surjewala said: “Kusum Pathak and Harish Pathak sold the land (12,080 square metres) on March 18 at 7.10pm for Rs 2 crore to Ravi Mohan Tiwari and Sultan Ansari. Same day at 7.15pm, Tiwari and Ansari sold the plot to the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Trust (via general secretary Champat Rai) for Rs 18.50 crore.
“Witnesses for both deals are Anil Mishra and Rishikesh Upadhyay. Mishra is a member of the trust and a senior RSS leader and Upadhyay, a BJP leader, is mayor of Ayodhya, supposed to be close to both Yogi and Modi.”
Surjewala said “the scandal is obvious” and argued that the value of no plot in the world has appreciated at this rate in five minutes. “It is interesting that Tiwari and Ansari got an e-stamp certificate for sale at 5.22pm but the trust got the e-stamp certificate at 5.11pm itself,” he said.
Both Rai and Mishra have denied wrongdoing. Rai said in a statement that the purchase was transparent and the amount paid was less than the current market rate.