The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday defended the Centre’s plea seeking the Supreme Court’s permission to return excess acquired land at the disputed site in Ayodhya to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, PTI reported. The party claimed the National Democratic Alliance government would not interfere with the disputed area.

“The government is not touching the disputed land,” said Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, hours after the Centre filed an interlocutory application seeking modification of the court’s March 2003 judgement to restore the surplus land to the trust. The excess land is not part of the dispute.

Javadekar added that the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a trust formed to promote and oversee the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site, would decide on what to do with the land returned to it and the government would not interfere in the matter.

In 2003, the court had barred religious activity of any kind on 67.703 acres of land located in revenue plot numbers 159 and 160 in the village of Kot Ramchandra that is “vested in the central government”.

BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav described the plea as a “much awaited move”. “42 acres around the shrine belonged to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas,” he tweeted. “Court should allow its return to them. Least that can be done in the face of inordinate delays in the Supreme Court.”

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath also welcomed the Centre’s initiative. “We should get permission to start work on the undisputed piece of land,” he said in Allahabad.

Adityanath last week claimed that his government would resolve the Ayodhya land dispute case in 24 hours if the Supreme Court is unable to deliver a judgement soon.

Uttar Pradesh government spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh said the Centre is working on all aspects within the Constitution’s ambit to fulfil people’s aspirations to build a Ram temple. He also accused the Congress of trying to disrupt proceedings in the matter.

Asked if the temple construction could start before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Singh said, “I can merely say that the government wants the temple to be built at the earliest as the issue is connected with the people.”

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad welcomed the decision as well. “This land belongs to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and is not under any litigation,” said the Hindutva outfit’s International Working President Alok Kumar. “This is a step in the right direction and we welcome it.”

‘Plea a move to appease Sangh Parivar’

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) claimed that the Centre’s plea was aimed at appeasing the Sangh Parivar ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

“The politburo of CPI(M) expresses its strong disapproval of the petition moved by the central government in the Supreme Court to remove the status quo in the non-disputed land that it had acquired in Ayodhya,” the party said. “It wants to hand over the land to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas that has been set up by the VHP to undertake the construction of the Ram temple at the site.”

Meanwhile, a petitioner in the land dispute case on Tuesday claimed that the decision was motivated by politics and taken with the elections in mind, Times Now reported. “The whole world knows about the current position of the BJP, therefore, the Modi government took this step,” said Haji Mehboob. “If the same decision was taken two years earlier, it would have been accepted.”

Mehboob claimed that if the plea was accepted and the decision implemented, the entire country would go up in flames. Remember this, the country will not be saved.”