An overwhelming number of leaders across the political spectrum on Wednesday welcomed the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram temple in Ayodhya, with the ruling BJP hailing the moment as "historic" and the opposition hoping that it would pave the way for national unity and harmony.
In an ambivalent reaction to the laying of the foundation stone for the Ram temple, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said Lord Ram is the ultimate embodiment of supreme human values and can never appear in cruelty, hatred or injustice.
Rahul Gandhi's cautious reaction came after his sister and Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday issued a statement, hoping that the groundbreaking ceremony becomes "a celebration of national unity, fraternity and cultural affinity". Priyanka's remarks were seen by its allies, including the Muslim League, as a subtle shift in Congress' position on the emotive issue.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed the 'bhoomi poojan' in Ayodhya for the Ram temple, bringing to fruition the BJP's 'mandir' movement that defined its politics for three decades, reactions from political leaders from ruling as well as opposition parties poured in.
The BJP top brass lauded Prime Minister Modi for fulfilling the aspirations of devotees and ending their centuries-old struggle, while most of the opposition parties barring AIMIM congratulated fellow citizens on the day.
President Ram Nath Kovind said the event defines India's spirit of social harmony and people's zeal, while Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said the construction of the Ram temple is much more than a religious affair and the structure will stand as a tribute to the best of timeless human values.
Asserting that the government remains committed to the preservation of Indian culture and its values, Home Minister Amit Shah said,"today is a historic and proud day" that heralds the beginning of a new era and marks a golden chapter in the history of India's great civilization.
The construction of the temple is the result of centuries long sacrifice, struggle and penance of the innumerable devotees of Lord Ram, Shah, who is recuperating at a private hospital in Gurgaon after contracting COVID-19, said.
Shah also added that the construction of the grand Ram temple demonstrates the strong and decisive leadership of Modi.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said every Indian had for years harboured a dream of the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya, and by performing the consecration of Ram temple today, Modi has brought to fruition that national resolve, which is linked to India's rich cultural traditions.
Union ministers, including Prakash Javadekar, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goyal also hailed the event.
Riding high as the BJP fulfilled its second ideological agenda of Ram temple exactly a year after abrogating Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, party president J P Nadda termed the occasion as a "historic moment" that brings joy and pride to all.
On the opposition side, the Congress walked a tightrope with Rahul Gandhi asserting that Lord Ram was love and compassion incarnate and could not appear in hatred and injustice.
"Maryada Purshottam Lord Ram is the ultimate embodiment of supreme human values. He is the core of humanism embedded deep in our hearts. Ram is love; He can never appear in hatred. Ram is compassion; He can never appear in cruelty. Ram is justice; He can never appear in injustice," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
A section of Congress leaders including Anand Sharma, Randeep Surjewala and Manish Tewari wished fellow citizens on the occasion while their party colleague Shashi Tharoor took a swipe at the BJP, asking them which teaching of Lord Ram they were following.
While most non-BJP parties steered clear of opposing the event with the BSP chief Mayawati crediting the apex court for the turn of events, AIMIM chief Asadudin Owaisi stood out for saying that the day marked the victory of majoritarianism.
"Today is a day of victory of Hindutva and defeat of secularism," Owaisi said.
CPI leader Binoy Viswam attacked Modi for drawing a parallel between the Independence movement and the struggle for Ram Temple while CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said,"this 'bhumi pujan' provided retrospective legitimisation for the destruction of the Babri Masjid".
The Shiv Sena has termed the development as "fulfilment" of party founder Bal Thackeray's dream.
The NCP, which is one of the constituents in the Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, said the ceremony is a "matter of joy" for all and that Lord Ram is the deity of Indians.
West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee said, "Our country has always upheld the age-old legacy of unity in diversity, and we must preserve this to our last breath."
Giving his best wishes to fellow citizens, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "May we continue to receive Lord Ram's blessings. May his blessings also help the country get rid of poverty, starvation and poverty and India emerges as the world's most powerful country and guide the world in the coming times. Jai Shri Ram. Jai Bajrang Bali."
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot stressed that there was a need to focus on establishment of an egalitarian society based on values espoused by Lord Ram.
"Lord Ram holds a unique place in our culture and civilization. His life teaches us the importance of truth, justice, equality of all, compassion and brotherhood. We need to focus on establishing an egalitarian society based on the values espoused by Lord Ram," he said in a tweet.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh tweeted "my heartiest congratulations to the people of India on the historic foundation laying of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, which fulfills the long cherished desire of every Indian. Lord Ram's universal message of Dharma remains the guiding light not just for India but for the world.
The consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya today heralds the end of a three-decade long BJP-led political movement in the country, which saw the saffron party surge from a negligible presence in Lok Sabha to an absolute majority today.
It was in 1990 that then BJP president L K Advani embarked on the Ram Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya to galvanise support for the temple and challenge the hegemony of the Congress in Indian politics.
The Rath Yatra started soon after the VHP performed 'Shilanyas' at the temple site on November 9, 1989.