Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has said the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram temple construction in Ayodhya can be conducted through video-conference in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thackeray, who is also president of the Shiv Sena, said he can go to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh for the ceremony, but asked if lakhs of "Ram bhakts" can be stopped from going there.

According to members of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit Ayodhya on August 5 for the "bhoomi pujan" ceremony to begin the construction of the Ram temple.

"An e-bhoomi pujan can be done. The groundbreaking ceremony can be held through video-conference. This is an event of joy, and lakhs of people would be interested in attending the ceremony. Will we allow the spread of coronavirus?" Thackeray said in an interview published in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' on Sunday.

He said the Ram temple issue has a background of struggle.

"This is not an ordinary temple. Today, we are fighting the coronavirus pandemic and religious gatherings are prohibited. I can go to Ayodhya for the ceremony, but what about lakhs of Ram bhakts. Will you stop them? You can do e-bhoomi pujan through video-conference," he suggested.

Thackeray recalled that the last time when he had gone to Ayodhya, he was stopped from performing 'aarti' at the Saryu river there since the COVID-19 pandemic spread had just started.

"Before that I had seen huge crowds on the river banks. Ram Mandir is a matter of faith. How can you stop people from going there?" he asked.

Thackeray visited Ayodhya in March to commemorate 100 days in office.

He assumed office as the chief minister of the Sena- led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on November 28 last year, after his party joined hands with the NCP and the Congress.