Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying some people think that building a temple will help tackle the coronavirus pandemic, PTI reported. His comments came a day after the trust formed to oversee the construction of the Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya city sent an invitation to Modi for laying the foundation stone and suggested two dates August 3 or 5 for the ceremony.

“Eradication of the coronavirus is the priority of the Maharashtra government, but some people think that coronavirus will go away after temple is constructed,” Pawar told reporters in Solapur. “That’s why they would have organised the programme. I am only getting to know about this from you people.”

The NCP’s alliance partner Shiv Sena has been vocal in its support for the construction of a Ram temple. Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said the matter should not be politicised. “Lord Ram is a matter of faith, there is no need to give it a political colour,” he said. “Shiv Sena is a leading light of the Ram Mandir movement. Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had visited Ayodhya before becoming chief minister and even after taking charge.”

Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the construction of the temple is a matter of faith, according to Hindustan Times. “Everyone knows that Covid-19 is not going to go away by building of the Ram Mandir,” he said. “They should focus on their state. Is coronavirus going to go away by buying expensive cars for their ministers, by not giving farmers loan waiver or black marketing of masks...There is no need for this cheap politics, Mandir is about the faith of millions of Hindus.”

Meanwhile, Pawar urged the Centre and state government to give extra attention to the pandemic and economy hit by the lockdown, according to NDTV. “We always think about what should be prioritised,” he added. “As of now, our priority is to help those infected with coronavirus recover. Because of the virus, lockdown had to be enforced. We are concerned about the economic crisis, the impact it has had on small businesses. That’s why I request the state government and the Centre to pay special attention to it...There should be discussion in Delhi on how to help people to come out of the economic crisis.”