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Ram Mandir trust, Ayodhya deadline and Delhi polls: When Modi read out decision in LS

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“The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra will be formed. This is the trust that was to be formed in line with the verdict of the Honourable Supreme Court of India.”

In a surprise move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to announce this decision at the top of the Question Hour in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

Let us all work in the direction of building a grand Ram Mandir, PM Modi said in Parliament while reading out a written statement perhaps for the first time.

PM Modi’s reading out the written statement on formation of the Ram Mandir trust also stands out as it was the Union home ministry that had been handling all the matters related to the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ayodhya title suit.

The home ministry had set up a dedicated desk to deal with all matters concerning Ayodhya and related court judgments. The desk of three officers was headed Gyanesh Kumar, an additional secretary in the MHA, news agency PTI had reported earlier.

It was the home ministry, under Amit Shah, that prepared the framework for the Ram Mandir trust, which will look after the construction of the proposed Ram temple at the site, which the Supreme Court awarded to Ram Lalla, the presiding deity of the place.

The home ministry had, in consultation with the Uttar Pradesh government, finalised the five-acre land to be offered to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board. The Supreme Court in its judgment awarded a separate plot of land to the Waqf board.

This proposal was cleared in the morning, PM Modi told the Lok Sabha. On previous occasions, big ticket announcements concerning the home ministry were made by Union Home Minister Amit Shah himself.

In August 2019, Amit Shah announced abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. In December 2019, Amit Shah announced decision to amend the Citizenship Act.

As a matter of practice, the ministers concerned with the respective departments inform Parliament about relevant decisions. Earlier in June 2019, Ravi Shankar Prasad had tabled the Triple Talaq Bill in Parliament to implement another Supreme Court judgment.

Moreover, timing of announcement of formation of the Ram Mandir trust is interesting as it came three days ahead of the Delhi Assembly election, and four days before the deadline fixed by the Supreme Court would end.

The Ram Mandir trust decision is likely to have some bearing on the Delhi Assembly election particularly in the backdrop of various narratives built around the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest at Shaheen Bagh in the national capital. The anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh is having a polarising effect on Delhi election. The announcement about formation of the Ram Mandir trust fits in the Hindutva narrative of Shaheen Bagh.

The Supreme Court had pronounced its judgment in the Ayodhya title suit on November 9 and set a deadline of three months for the formation of Ram Mandir trust. That deadline would end on February 9, a day after the Delhi election. But PM Modi made announcement four days ahead in Parliament.

The Supreme Court had directed the central government to set up a trust with a board of trustees or any other appropriate body for managing the affairs at Ayodhya. The land acquired by the government will now be transferred to the Ram Mandir trust, which will oversee construction and management of the proposed Ram temple.

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