Shimla: In what may embarrass the Congress party, its veteran leader and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh Tuesday said he favours the construction of a Ram temple at the same spot where the Babri mosque stood in Ayodhya.
Talking to PTI at his residence Holly Lodge here, the veteran Congress leader also said, "Islam came to India later. The mosque was built after demolishing the temple in Ayodhya." "Ayodhya was the capital of Bhagwan Ram. When you have taken this step (of demolishing the Babri Masjid), build the temple. (Agar ye kadam uthaya to phir mandir bana do)," he added.
The former Himachal chief minister also accused the BJP of lacking the courage to build the temple.
"If they had the courage, they would have built the temple. The way should be paved for constructing the Ram Mandir there," he said.
Sitting by his side, the Congress Legislative Party leader, Mukesh Agnihotri said, "The BJP lacks the willpower for building the temple." Singh, however, made it clear that his views on construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya are personal. Claiming a "sure victory" for the Congress on Kangra and Shimla (SC) Lok Sabha seats out of the total four in the state, Singh said, "I will start campaigning in the state after attending the general house meeting (the party workers meeting) in Kangra on April 15." Asked why he did not attend the party workers meeting in Mandi on Tuesday, Singh avoided a direct reply, saying he would start campaigning in Himachal from April 15.
On whether he would share dais with his "political bete noire" Sukh Ram during electioneering, Virbhadra Singh said he was not averse to it.
"If any such situation arises, I will definitely share the dais with him. I have no such differences with him as has been made out in the media. If the party has given its blessings to him and fielded his grandson Ashray (Sharma) from Mandi, I am fully with him," said Singh.
"I am, however, personally against the 'Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram' politics," he added, referring to the practice of switching parties.
Former Union minister Sukh Ram's grandson Ashray Sharma is fighting polls for the Mandi Lok Sabha seat as a Congress candidate.
Responding to a query on former Union telecom minister Sukh Ram's son Anil Sharma, who is a minister in Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government in the state, Singh said, "Sharma will join the Congress sooner of later." "Instead of hanging like a pendulum, he should start campaigning for his son Aashray," he added.
Responding to a question on the initial talks on fielding one of his family members from Mandi, he said, "Neither I nor any of my family members applied for the ticket." Singh also sounded critical of the party leadership's decision to field sitting MLA Ram Lal Thakur from Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat. Thakur has been a five-time MLA and a former minister in the state government.
"I favoured Sujanpur MLA Rajinder Rana's young son Abhishek Rana to be fielded from Hamirpur. Rajinder Rana defeated BJP's CM candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal in the last assembly elections from Sujanpur and his son Abhishek would have been a better choice for Hamirpur," he said.
In reply to a question on a section of the party leaders favouring CLP leader Mukesh Agnihotri's candidature for the Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat, Singh said, "As an aggressive politician, Agnihotri is required more in the state than the Centre at this juncture".
A section of Congress leaders had been rooting for the party ticket to Agnihotri from the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency, allegedly to oust him from the state politics.
Replying to a question on his MLA son Vikramaditya Singh's recent Facebook post expressing apprehensions of raids by the CBI and Income Tax Department at their residence like the IT raids at Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath's close aides, the former CM said, "My life is open to all and the property I own is my ancestral property." Virbhadra Singh and some of his family members are facing trial in a Delhi court in a disproportionate assets case.
On poll campaigning by the top Congress leaders in the state, he said, "Party president Rahul Gandhi has already addressed a public meeting in Kangra a few weeks ago. He will definitely address more election rallies in Himachal in May." "We will also like Priyanka Gandhi to address at least one rally in HP as she has a house in state capital Shimla," he added.
On a question on his "appreciation" for the present state government's work, he said, "I have never appreciated the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government's work in the state. The chief minister and other BJP leaders are wrongly quoting me as appreciating his government in their rallies." "If I have appreciated his work, let them show on record when and where did I do that. They should not spread false propaganda," he said.
On the Congress' "poll USPs" in the state, Singh said, "We will campaign on three points. First, we will concentrate on unfulfilled promises of the Modi government, second, we will spread awareness about promises made in our manifesto and third, we will apprise people of the failures of the Thakur government."