Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh on Monday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cancel the foundation-laying ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on August 5, as he claimed the timing was inauspicious. Several politicians, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, as well as a priest and 16 police officers on duty in Ayodhya have recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Swami Swarupanand had warned that August 5 was inauspicious for the stone-laying of Ram temple,” Singh tweeted. “This date has been fixed in accordance with Modiji’s convenience. Which means Modi ji is greater than the Hindu faith’s beliefs of thousand years! Is this Hindutva?”

Singh also wondered what was the compulsion to hold the ceremony in the middle of a pandemic. “Modi-ji, how many more do you want to send to hospital by performing the groundbreaking rituals?” he asked.

The Congress leader requested Chief Minister Adityanath to talk to Modi and make him reconsider the decision. “How can you allow the violation of Sanatan Dharma?” he asked. “What is your compulsion?” Sanatana dharma is a term in Hinduism which is used to denote the absolute set of duties or religiously ordained practices incumbent upon all Hindus.

The Congress leader then listed names of people who have been infected so far, to prove the “results of overlooking the Sanatan Dharma”. “The assistant priest at Ram temple has tested positive,” he tweeted. “Uttar Pradesh minister Kamla Rani has succumbed to the virus. Uttar Pradesh BJP chief has tested positive and is hospitalised. India’s Home Minister Amit Shah is also positive. MP BJP chief is also infected. Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa has tested positive.”

Singh also questioned why Modi and Adityanath have not quarantined themselves despite the rising number of infections among BJP leaders. “Is 14-day quarantine only for the common man and not for the prime minister?”

Singh said Ram is central to the beliefs of crore of Hindus in India and asked Modi to not undermine traditions. “I again request Modi ji to postpone the inauspicious timing of August 5,” he added. “After hundreds of years of struggle, the time of construction of Lord Ram temple has come, prevent it from getting disturbed by your dogma.”

Shivraj Chouhan rejects concerns

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan rejected Singh’s concerns and claimed the “mere invocation of Lord Ram’s name” turns the inauspicious into auspicious.

“Congress leaders who had rejected the existence of Lord Ram are today trying to fix the auspicious inauspicious time for the construction of a temple in his name,” Chouhan tweeted. “Oh Congressmen, mere invoking Lord Ram turns a time auspicious.”

The senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader pointed out that the Congress had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court arguing that Ram was never born and his birth was a figment of imagination.

“[Congress leader] Mani Shankar had raised questions over the birthplace of Lord Ram,” Chouhan said. “Kapil Sibal stood against Ramlala and insulted Sanatan Dharam. Kamal Nath calls Lord Ram a political stunt... Rahul Baba [Rahul Gandhi] has even said that people go to temples to tease girls.”

He added that for the Congress, Ram was a subject of politics but for the BJP, “Ram is a matter of devotion and faith”.

Also read: What will the August 5 Ram temple ceremony mean for the BJP – and India?

On August 5, Modi will install a silver brick at the site where the temple is supposed to be built. Tight security arrangements have put in place Ayodhya. The local administration will also implement strict coronavirus safety measures. The number of guests have been cut to 50.

A landmark Supreme Court verdict in November had paved the way for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The court had ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya would be handed over to a government-run trust for the construction of a Ram temple. The court had also said that the demolition of Babri Masjid was illegal and directed the government to acquire an alternative plot of land to build a mosque.