A member of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra trust on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on August 5.
Talking to reporters in Pune, Swami Govind Devgiri Maharaj also said that all chief ministers must be invited for the ceremony.
"The PM has agreed to come to Ayodhya on August 5 for the 'bhoomi pujan' of Ram temple. He will be there for one- and-a-half hours.
"He will first pay a visit to Hanuman Gadhi, then take darshan of Ram Lalla before taking part in the 'bhoomi poojan' ceremony," Swami Govind Devgiri Maharaj, also known as Kishorji Vyas, said.
"Earlier, they had decided that the PM will do the 'bhoomi pujan' online. But I insisted that he (PM) should come there in person and perform the ceremony. And Modi ji accepted it," he said.
"Modiji had sought two dates. So his office was informed about two dates- July 29 and August 5. Finally he gave consent to August 5," he added.
However, there has been no official confirmation from the Prime Minister's Office so far that Modi would be attending the ceremony.
Swami Devgiri Maharaj said that while the PM performs the ceremony, the people of the country will celebrate the moment by staying indoors.
"You will see there will be a wave of happiness in the country. If our morale goes down, we will get defeated in our fight against coronavirus. So to keep the morale high, we should create a wave of happiness and if that happens, COVID- 19 will start subside," he added.
According to him, in 1951, prime minister Pandit Nehru did not go to the Somnath temple (for inauguration) due to some 'family traditions'.
"But the then President of India, Rajendra Prasad, went there. Nehru opposed Prasad's decision, but the latter firmly said that he will go to Somnath temple even if he has to tender his resignation. This is called nationalism. Modiji has the same nationalism in him and that is why he is going," he said.
"This moment was awaited for the last five centuries and he (Modi) also shares the same feeling. That is why he has given his consent," the teasurer of the trust said.
Asked if Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will be invited to the ground-breaking ceremony, the seer said, "He must be invited."
"There is no question of not inviting CM Thackeray. He must be invited...I think there is no point in not inviting anybody. We must invite all the CMs, notable saints and social leaders," he added.
In view of the coronavirus pandemic, there will be only 200 people at the August 5 ceremony at Ayodhya, he said.
All social distancing norms will be followed at the event, he added.
He termed Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray as a 'great hero' who had emphasised building a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Talking to PTI later, Swami Devgiri said that the responsibility of inviting the saints and sages lies with the trust, but that of inviting the political personalities is with Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath.
"So things will take place as per the decisions taken by Yogiji," he said.
He, however, said that if the invitation is sent, it will be sent to all the chief ministers.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut had on Tuesday said that Uddhav Thackeray will definitely go for the ground-breaking ceremony.
Asked whether Thackeray has received an invitation for the ceremony, Raut had said, "It will come."
Asked about Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar's recent statement that some people think building a temple will help eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic, Swami Devgiri Maharaj said, "People love Modiji so much that they always like to talk about him."
"They always try to find a chance to talk about him -- for or against. If someone talks in support, it does not become news, but if someone speaks against, it does and there are people who always like to be in news therefore they speak," he added.
Swami Devgiri, who returned to his ashram in Pune from Ayodhya on Tuesday, said that the construction of the temple will complete in three and half years and the trust is in the process of acquiring more land.