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Gorakhpur over Ayodhya: A careful choice or fear of loss

Yogi Adityanath decided to move away from Ayodhya. And that has created a huge buzz among the people of constituency number 275 of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly. 'Look how the ardent Rambhakt Chief Minister is all out to save his seat. What happened to his love for Ram?', people are openly talking about how the seat of power turned out to be more important than the love for Lord Ram. In an effort to end all such speculations, the chief priest of the Ramjanam Bhoomi Mandir, Satyendra Das, most willingly clarifies the Saint Minister's stand.

The polling date for Ayodhya Assembly Constituency is February 27, 2022. Whereas, the date of polling for the Vidhan Sabha in Gorakhpur Urban is March 3, 2022.

Das explained why it was so important for 'Yogi ji' to contest from his home turf Gorakhpur and not from Ram Lalla's birthplace. "I had understood that the vibes here in Ayodhya were not going to be favourable for our Mukhya Mantri Yogi ji and I made my opinion public. I feel extremely happy that the chief minister perhaps saw reason in what I stated or maybe it was solely his own decision. Whatever it may be, I feel very comforted with him not contesting from Ayodhya," says Das.

He further says that the common people, especially, the business class are being misled by other political outfits.

"How else can any government have a grand temple without the correct infrastructure? To create a plush pilgrim town, it is but natural that there will be some collateral damage. But it does not mean that the ruling government does not care for people's welfare," Das adds.

All the local representatives of other political parties scoff at Acharya Satyendra Das' logic. They believe that the temple town has now totally rejected the saffron brigade. It is not strange that any political leader would feel safer in a constituency that sent him to the Lok Sabha for five consecutive terms.

Spokesperson of Uttar Pradesh Congress, Gaurav Tiwari expounds on this, "Since Independence, this is the first time that the contest is not going to be among any political parties. Instead, this election is going to be a contest between the ruling party and the general junta." He further explains that this is the situation all over the entire state.

Reacting to the Chief Priest's soft corner towards the CM, the traders spew anger openly. "Really, the Chief minister cares for our welfare? Please give me proof of that," demands, Nand Kumar Gupta who is the president of Ayodhya Udyog Vyapar Mandal. Angrily he adds that 'on the pretext of beautifying the town, the ruling party wants to do away with all the local traders. They intend to support the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust which in turn intends to sell the temple town to Adani and Ambani so that the Trust members too can make some extra moolahs.'

There can be little doubt that there is almost a hundred percent resentment towards the present government among the traders of Ayodhya. The shop owners in Hanumangarhi, one of the most important religious centres besides the Ramjanam Bhoomi locality, are extremely stressed. They are worried about what the future has in store in case the ruling government comes back to power. Shailendra Kumar Gupta who owns a sweet shop almost next to the Hanuman temple here, lashes out, "This street that leads to the temple is most sought after by all pilgrims. Now claiming to widen the road, the government is all out to demolish our stores. There is no mention of any kind of compensation so far. We hear rumours of being given a place elsewhere, but why should we shift to any other locality where no pilgrims will arrive?" He adds that merchants who have come all the way from Gujarat and other states are establishing their stores in the same vicinity and are allowed to do what they wish, and 'they are treated more respectfully than the locals of Ayodhya'.

There can be no two ways about the fact that the people of Ayodhya want to move on, leaving behind what they have had to face since the Mandir-Masjid conflict took off in the mid-eighties. They are clear about their expectation from the government—security and basic amnesties.

It is not the traders alone who have come out in the open against the Yogi government. Added to that is the way there is no control over all kinds of stray animals, they walk straight into the fields and eat up the crop. Farmers in Ayodhya and adjacent areas are all turning away from the Yogi government for the same reasons.

The situation became unbearable especially when they have had to face menace from stray animals even during the severe winter months. Besides spending energy in shooing these animals away, the farmers have felt compelled to sleep out in their farms despite the harsh weather. So even at the cost of their lives, they risked all to save the crops for which they invested time, labour and hard-earned money.

It is known to all that soon after coming to power in 2017, the Yogi Adityanath government had assured that they would build gaushalas so that the stray cattle in the state can be managed better. Five years later, with them not keeping to this promise, the stray animals have become a big issue in the present UP Assembly election.

The feeling one gets while talking to people from different locales and professions in the Ayodhya constituency is that there is no more 'hero worship' that prevailed for Yogi when he came to power in 2017. In that year, there was en-masses voting for the BJP.

To add to the anti-incumbency factors, the Covid pandemic has also turned the ruling party weak and ailing. The people of Uttar Pradesh have still not forgiven nor forgotten the insensitive, sloppy and callous way the government handled the deadly second wave of Corona in 2021.

Gorakhpur over Ayodhya. Secured seat above Rambhakti. Will this decision help the Monk minister, Yogi Adityanath? March 10 will spell out if the people of Gorakhpur Constituency show the same loyalty that they did in the last five Lok-Sabha elections? Like one of the local leaders from the Ayodhya-Faizabad Legislative Constituency sarcastically remarked, "Let us all wait and watch if Yogi gets enough oxygen supply in Gorakhpur to sustain his post as a Chief Minister."

The local politician was referring to when the state government had claimed that Dr Kafeel Khan, a Gorakhpur-based doctor, was guilty of laxity in death of 63 children at the Gorakhpur Medical College, allegedly owing to the shortage of oxygen. He was dismissed from service from the College Hospital in 2017.

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