Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Monday claimed his party "laid the road" to the Ram temple in Ayodhya and removed the main roadblocks in the run up to the temple's construction "not for politics", but out of faith and for the cause of Hindutva.
Talking to reporters, Raut said Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray always visits Ayodhya and the ties between the party and the Uttar Pradesh town are "intact".
Raut made the remarks when he was asked whether Thackeray will visit Ayodhya on August 5 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit the town for the bhoomi pujan ceremony to begin the construction of a grand Ram temple.
"Uddhav Thackeray always goes to Ayodhya. He went (to Ayodhya) when he was not chief minister (of Maharashtra), he went there after becoming chief minister too," Raut said.
"The ties of the Shiv Sena and Ayodhya are intact. It is not a political relation. We do not go to Ayodhya for politics and did not go there (for politics in the past too), the Rajya Sabha member said.
"Rather, it is the Shiv Sena which laid the road to the Ram temple. The Shiv Sena removed the main roadblocks in the run up to the construction of the temple at the place where Lord Ram was born. That was not for politics. But the Shiv Sainiks made sacrifices out of faith and Hindutva. And our relation is intact, he said.
Raut said the prime minister will visit Ayodhya after the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra - the trust set up for the temple construction - invited the latter.
He said it needs to be seen how many people will be invited for the ceremony and what social distancing measures will be taken (in view of the COVID-19 outbreak).
"It needs to be seen what 'political social distancing' they will observe, Raut added.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday said some people think building a temple will help eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked about Pawar's remark, Raut said, "The fight against coronavirus is being fought by our doctors in white attire, whom we call devdoot (messenger of God) is only what I can say."
Raut, however, was quick to add that the party's faith in religion and God is intact.
Thackeray has said, Prime Minister Modi will also accept that lakhs of doctors, police, nurses and ward boys across the world have made sacrifices while fighting COVID-19.
"And they only will fight the disease and with the blessings of God, he said.