President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday donated Rs 5,00,100 for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, as the Ramjanmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust began a nationwide campaign to collect donations.
“A delegation of four people had gone to receive the good wishes of the Hon’ble President. The President along with his family donated a cheque of five lakh and one hundred rupees for the construction of the temple. We are happy that this national movement for temple construction has begun with his hands,” VHP spokesperson Vinod Bansal said.
The President’s office did not issue an official statement in this regard. VHP sources said the President made the donation in his personal capacity.
The delegation that visited Kovind included former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and head of the committee for the construction of the Ram Temple, Nripendra Mishra, member of the Trust Swami Govinddev Giri, VHP International Working President Alok Kumar, and RSS leader Kulbhushan Ahuja.
VHP sources said the first day of the donation drive had seen an enthusiastic response not only from several dignitaries but also from common people. A delegation is supposed to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well for his “blessings and good wishes”, sources said.
The sources said the Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Trivendra Singh Rawat respectively; the Governors of Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Bandaru Dattatreya, Draupadi Murmu, and Baby Rani Maurya respectively; and Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel made donations on Friday.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had donated last year itself. On Friday, the state Information Department said Adityanath had contributed another cheque of Rs 2 lakh, PTI reported.
According to the VHP, Chief Minister Rawat gave a cheque of Rs 1.51 lakh, and Governor Maurya a cheque of Rs 1.21 lakh. Governor Koshiyari donated a cheque of Rs 1.11 lakh at an event in Nagpur.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar was quoted by PTI as saying it was “strange” if Governors were taking part in a campaign to collect money for the temple.
On a query on the mass contact programme to seek funds to build the Ram temple, Pawar said it was the right of any organisation to seek funds, PTI reported. “But I have heard, I don’t know how far it is true, that Governors of states are also taking part in it. If that news is true, then it is strange,” Pawar said, without taking any names, according to PTI.
The Governor, Pawar said, holds a key post and belongs to the state and all its people. “It would be a sign of being sensible for them (Governors) to keep away from such issues on which people held opposite views,” PTI quoted him as saying.
The donation drive for the temple has been spearheaded by the RSS and VHP. Sources said RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had visited Valmiki Temple on Delhi’s Mandir Marg, where chief priest Krishnashah Vidyarthi made a donation after a ceremonial prayer to kickstart the campaign.
Swami Awadheshanand Giri “went begging” for the temple to Dalit settlements in Nagpur, while Sadhvi Rithambara led a similar drive among members of the Scheduled Castes in Mumbai, the VHP said.
RSS leaders Suresh Joshi and Manmohan Vaidya too led drives in different states. Trust chief and VHP leader Champat Rai visited Tejgaon village in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, where at a function organised by former BJP MLA Surendra Bahadur Singh, a cheque of Rs 1,11,111 was given to Rai. Following this, Rai met UP Governor Anandiben Patel, who donated as well.
“Programmes have been held in all state capitals. The movement is catching momentum, and there is a lot of enthusiasm. We haven’t yet started collections in seven states, which include Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Manipur, Haryana, and Delhi,” VHP spokesperson Bansal said.
Although the drive to collect donations in Delhi will begin only on February 1, several businessmen and politicians from Delhi had donated on January 14 during the inauguration of the Trust’s camp office in Kailash Colony.
Among those who donated were industrialists Punit Dalmiya, Subhash Goyal, and S K Jindal, and MPs Gautam Gambhir and Parvesh Verma.
The Trust had announced in December 2019 that it would launch the donation drive in January. It had said that nearly 4 lakh volunteers would cover 55 crore people (11 crore families) in 5 lakh villages in a whirlwind 44-day campaign ending February 27, the first day of the holy dip at the Kumbh Mela.
“People will be made aware of the historic significance of the Janmabhoomi movement. The Trust has envisaged that just as crores of Ram bhakts contributed for the freedom of Ram Janmabhoomi, the temple too shall be built with their voluntary contributions,” the Trust had posted on Twitter then.
The push by Hindutva groups to collect donations have also seen some incidents of violence and clashes between communities.
In December, clashes erupted in a Muslim-dominated village in Indore district after members of right-wing Hindu groups participating in a rally to collect donations for the construction of the Ram temple, stopped in front of a mosque and allegedly raised slogans.
A few days before this incident, there were clashes in Ujjain’s Muslim-dominated Begum Bagh neighbourhood after slogans were raised in a Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha rally, leading to stone-pelting.