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    Efforts should have been made to ensure Advani and Joshi are present at bhumi pujan: Katiyar

    Synopsis

    Advani, 92, had led the Rath Yatra for the Ram janmabhoomi movement and was present in Ayodhya along with Joshi, 86, and Uma Bharati, 61, when the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992. They are among the accused in the Babri Masjid trial.

    NEW DELHI: Former BJP MP and Bajrang Dal leader Vinay Katiyar said a special effort should have been made to ensure LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi's presence at the bhumi pujan (ground-breaking ceremony) for the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday since they are the most prominent faces of the Ram janmabhoomi movement.

    Besides Advani and Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharati will not attend the ceremony, making for four major leaders of the movement who will be conspicuous by their absence.

    While the Ram Temple Trust cited the advancing age of these leaders and the Covid-19 scare for their absence from the event, Katiyar told ET: "I know there is a threat due to coronavirus but Advani and Joshi should have been brought to Ayodhya at any cost - arrangements should have been made by maybe a special flight."

    The comments came in response to the claim of the trust on Tuesday that it would have been difficult for people above 90 years of age to reach Ayodhya. Katiyar, 65, said he would attend the event but only if he can make an arrangement by which he would not have to walk much till the venue as he suffers from back pain.

    Advani, 92, had led the Rath Yatra for the Ram janmabhoomi movement and was present in Ayodhya along with Joshi, 86, and Uma Bharati, 61, when the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992. They are among the accused in the Babri Masjid trial.

    The general secretary of the trust, Champat Rai, said on Tuesday that the matter was discussed with senior people such as Advani and Joshi on the phone before the final invitation list was prepared. "Advani's physical condition is delicate. How will he come from Delhi?" Rai said.

    The trustees also spoke to Kalyan Singh, 88, and convinced him to stay away from the function given his advanced age and the coronavirus threat, said people close to the former CM. Former BJP minister Uma Bharati reached Ayodhya on Tuesday evening but opted out of attending the function saying she would instead be present on the Saryu river banks in Ayodhya at the time as she had travelled as part of a yatra by train and might have come in contact with an infected person.

    Sadhvi Rithambara, 56, also a prominent face of the movement will, however, be present at the ground-breaking ceremony. "The dream of millions of Hindus has come true," Rithambara told ET on the phone.
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