NEW DELHI: Weeks before the national elections, BJP leaders on Tuesday sought to present the central government's move to return undisputed land in Ayodhya to its original owners, including Ram Janambhoomi Nyas, as a step towards starting "work" on building a Ram temple in the holy city of Uttar Pradesh.
With the RSS-led Hindutva organisations pushing for a law to build the temple at the disputed site, a BJP leader said the government's plea in the Supreme Court is an attempt to redress the "deep sense of anguish of Ram devotees and the BJP cadres".
The comments came hours after the Centre asked the Supreme Court to allow it to return the "non-disputed" surplus land acquired around the disputed structure in Ayodhya to the Nyas and other original owners.
The leader recalled that the biggest applaud the BJP president Amit Shah's speech in the party's recent convention had received from thousands of delegates was when he reiterated the party's commitment to the temple construction.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's brief mention of the emotive issue had also drawn loud cheers, he said.
Amid demands for a law, Modi had said that his government would wait for the apex court's decision on the matter but the "delay" in the matter has been causing consternation among the 'sadhus' and the party's core Hindutva supporters.
Underlining the significance of the government's petition, the senior government functionary and the party leader said, "We have to be concerned about their sentiments. People who want a Ram temple have always supported us. There has to be political massaging by the government that we care for their emotions."
Separately, BJP leader and Union minister Prakash Javadekar held a press conference at the party's headquarters here and said the Nyas, a trust which is among the largest original owners of the undisputed land that the government had acquired and has offered to return, wants a Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
He indicated that the government's plea in the Supreme Court to return excess land around the disputed site to its original owners could pave the way for construction of the Ram temple.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a prominent Hindutva face of the party, also hailved the government's move and hoped permission would be granted to start work on the undisputed land.
"We welcome this initiative of the Central government. We should get permission to start work on the undisputed piece of land," he said in Allahabad. Underlining that the government is not touching the disputed land in Ayodhya, Javadekar said only 0.313 acre of land is disputed for which the title suit is yet to be decided.
"Today the government has taken a very important in-principle decision to return the excess land, which was acquired in 1994, to the original landowners.
Out of 67 acres of undisputed land, the landowner for 42 acres is the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas.
The government wants to return the land to its original owners and they want to build the Ram temple there," Javadekar said.
He maintained that the BJP has always said a temple should be built in Ayodhya through a legal route and the government's decision is a legal step.
"We are confident that the government will get permission from the court at the earliest," Javadekar said.
The BJP has in its manifesto always underscored its commitment to building the temple at the site where once stood the Babri mosque, which was razed by right-wing extremists on December 6, 1992.
With the general election round the corner, the party believes its show of intent for building the temple could consolidate its core supporters, whose indifference to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2004 was seen by many political watchers as one of the reasons for the BJP's surprise loss.