File photo. Devendra Fadnavis at an election rally. Photo: PTI/Files

New Delhi: Former chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis has claimed that he was among the kar sevaks who were at Ayodhya to pull down the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, in an apparent effort to highlight his credentials in comparison with the Shiv Sena.

Addressing a BJP rally ahead of the Mumbai civic body elections, Fadnavis alleged no one from Sena was present in Ayodhya at that time.

“I proudly claim I was amongst the active kar sevaks who were present at Ayodhya the day the Babri structure was demolished. I participated in kar seva for the construction of the magnificent Ram temple. I was lodged in prison, I was lathicharged,” Fadnavis said, according to Indian Express.

In late April, Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had said, “Those who are teaching me Hindutva should ask themselves about their contribution to the cause of Hindutva. You were hiding in a rat hole when Babri (Masjid) was demolished (on December 6, 1992)”, Thackeray had said, adding that the Ram Temple construction was based on a Supreme Court’s order, and was not the BJP government’s decision.

Fadnavis, in what appeared to be a purported retaliation said, “They asked where we were hiding… They [Sena workers] got scared like hell when they were asked to remove loudspeakers from mosques and are now claiming that they brought down the Babri mosque.”

Continuing further, he said, “I am saying with pride that, yes, I was there to bring the structure down. This Devendra Fadnavis was there to bring the structure down. Not only this, this Devendra Fadnavis spent 18 days in the Badaun jail before that for doing kar seva for the Ram temple.”

He then posed a volley of questions to the Sena: “Tell me, which leader from Maharashtra had gone to Ayodhya when the mosque was brought down? Had anyone gone? No Shiv Sena leader was present there.”

BJP has been trying to project Sena as a false claimant of Hindutva – ever since the two parties fell out after Sena stitched up an alliance government with NCP and Congress in Maharashtra. Fadnavis said that BJP veterans L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Rithambara, Kalyan Singh had participated in the Ram temple movement, and fought a legal battle for the same.

‘Issues have changed’

Responding to Fadnavis, Sena’s Sanjay Raut said, “If someone says where were Shiv Sainiks when the Babri Masjid was demolished, (then) they should ask their leader (late) Sunder Singh Bhandari where was the Shiv Sena. Check the CBI report of that time. Check the IB report.”

“Those who don’t have knowledge and ask where was the Shiv Sena will get answers to it. The situation has changed, so have the issues. People will not pay heed to it (the issues being raked up),” he added.

Raut claimed the BJP and its “sister concern”, alluding to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), are trying to rake up the issues of recitation of Hanuman Chalisa and Ayodhya to divert attention from issues like unemployment, inflation and the Chinese incursion.

With the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation election slated to be held this month, the opposition in the state has stepped up its attack against the Sena government. While the BJP, on the one hand, appears to be trying to fix the discourse around the ‘true claimant of Hindutva’ ideology, the Raj Thackeray-led MNS has focused on the communally-charged loudspeaker issue.

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