Several BJP leaders Thursday supported RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's push for a law to enable construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, saying the legislation is a constitutionally valid option.
Opposition and Muslim leaders, however, linked Bhagwat's call for legislation to allow a Ram temple where the Babri Masjid stood to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, saying his demand is 'politically motivated.'
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said Bhagwat's remarks indicated that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party believed in totalitarianism and not in the rule of law.
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said Bhagwat made a constitutionally valid demand and the government should bring an ordinance for construction of the temple.
Shrikant Sharma, a minister in the Uttar Pradesh government and its spokesperson, echoed the view.
He said the legislation to build the temple at Ayodhya will be in accordance with the Constitution
Sharma said there have always been two options for constructing the temple - one is to take the legal course and another to build a consensus. An ordinance can be part of the legal route, he said.
He said the matter has been delayed long in courts.
In his customary Dussehra address at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, Bhagwat said the government should clear the path for the construction of a grand temple through an appropriate law.
"What Mr Bhagwat said is within the Constitution, is constitutionally valid. We have been seeing that the Sunni Waqf Board lawyers are only trying to delay the proceedings in the court. There is nothing really left, except delay, government should bring an ordinance," Swamy said.
Terming Bhagwat's speech historic, former BJP MP Vinay Katiyar rejected the contention that he made the demand for a law for the temple with an eye on the 2019 elections.
BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said a grand Ram temple must be built at the birthplace of Lord Ram. He said this is the desire of all Hindus.
In Lucknow, opposition parties and Muslim leaders said Bhagwat's call was meant to serve political interests.
"The statement on Ram temple given by the RSS chief is a political statement before the upcoming elections," Samajwadi Party spokesman in Uttar Pradesh Rajendra Chaudhary told PTI.
UP Congress spokesman Anshu Awasthi said it is an open secret that whenever the RSS and the BJP speak about Lord Ram it should be understood that elections are round the corner.
"Now they are out to raise the name of Ram shamelessly at election time to serve their political interests," Awasthi added.
Darul Uloom Farangi Mahal rector Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali said even a child knows that the Ram temple issue is raised by the RSS-BJP every time before the elections.
Babri Masjid Action Committee convenor Zafaryab Jilani said Bhagwat is trying to influence the court, referring to the title suit for the disputed site in Ayodhya.
In Hyderabad, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said Bhagwat's demand indicated that the RSS and the BJP believe in "totalitarianism".
"Do it," he said, referring to the demand for enacting a law on Ram temple. "Who is stopping the RSS and their government?"
"The RSS and the BJP believe in totalitarianism. They don't believe in pluralism or rule of law," Owaisi told reporters.
The Hyderabad MP said the Supreme Court had clearly stated here cannot be an exclusive law for any particular religion.
Firebrand Hindu leader Pravin Togadia questioned why such a law was not enacted in the last four and a half years of the BJP rule.
The RSS is raising the issue now because elections are round the corner and the BJP government's performance is dismal, he said.