Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam on Friday said he was “100% sure” the Supreme Court would deliver its judgment on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections “because the Bharatiya Janata Party wants it” before the polls. He was speaking at the India Today Conclave 2018.

In response, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said it would make no difference if the verdict came after the 2019 General Elections. “The sky will not collapse on us if the Supreme Court judgment does not come before the 2019 polls,” he said. “Why is 2019 a magic number?”

However, BJP Spokesperson Sambit Patra said it was “blasphemous to read a political conspiracy into the Supreme Court’s judgment”. “If you can’t compete with [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi, stop throwing stones at the judiciary,” he said.

Nirupam claimed that the BJP raises the Ayodhya dispute before every election, but is not interested in actually building the Ram Temple, but Patra criticised the Congress. “The Congress cannot decide whether to adopt Ram or discard Ram,” he claimed, adding that the Ram Temple was an “article of faith” for all Indians that would certainly be constructed.

Owaisi said the Ayodhya dispute was one of land rights and had nothing to do with religion. He also challenged Patra to tell the Supreme Court the matter was one of faith, not one of a title to the BJP.

To this, Patra claimed the image of Hindu god Ram appeared on the first page of the Indian Constitution, leading Owaisi to assert that the Constitution also celebrates 18th-century Mysuru ruler Tipu Sultan.

Both Nirupam and Owaisi criticised Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for saying India would resemble Syria if the Ayodhya dispute was not resolved. However, Patra claimed the row was the “ultimate unifier” and that Ram was “imam-e-Hind” (the Imam of India).