UP politics: Lord Ram back as protagonist
With the Supreme Court beginning the hearing in two-decade old Hindutva case and political parties vying for votes of Ram Bhakts, Ayodhya is back to the centre stage of Uttar Pradesh politics. The politically-crucial state goes to polls to reconstitute its assembly in March next year.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday commenced hearing to revisit its two-decade-old ‘Hindutva’ judgement for an authoritative pronouncement on electoral law categorising misuse of religion for electoral gains as “corrupt practice”. A seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur decided to go ahead with the hearing, ignoring the request of some parties in the matter to involve Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for assistance.
Meanwhile, in Uttar Pradesh, political activity surged on the issue of Ramjanambhoomi, with Union Minister Mahesh Sharma arriving in Ayodhya on Tuesday to review progress made in the Ramayana circuit project. The project cost has been revised from initially-proposed Rs 175 crore to Rs 225 crore. According to Ministry sources, Rs 50 crore has already been released for the project.
Sharma’s visit followed the decision of Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government on Monday to approve the plan for building a world-class International Ramlila center in Ayodhya. The Akhilesh Yadav government is also building a theme park in the town.
Ram-centric political activity has gained momentum ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a departure from tradition decided to celebrate Dusshera outside the national Capital this year. He travelled to Lucknow to attend Ramlila at Aishbagh on Vijay Dashmi day and performed the symbolic Ravanvadh. Memories of the heydays of the Ramjanambhoomi movement were revived with Modi starting and concluding his Vijay Dashmi address with Jai Shree Ram.
The poll season has witnessed an unprecedented rush to the temple town by leaders of different political parties who had so far kept a distance from the Ayodhya issue. During his Deoria-Delhi Kisan Yatra, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took a detour to visit Ayodhya. Though he did not visit the disputed site, he visited the next temple of prominence – Hanuman Garhi. This is the first time that a member of Gandhi family visited Ayodhya after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
With three of the four major political contestants visiting Ayodhya or wooing the voters, Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) too addressed the issue on Tuesday with its leader Mayawati counseling restraint and asking the vote-seekers to wait till the Supreme Court order in the Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute case.
However, the wheels of political activism on the matter seem to have been turned with three-term MP from Ayodhya (Faizabad) and currently BJP member of Rajya Sabha saying that nothing less than the Ram temple would meet the aspirations of the Ram Bhakts.
“We should be trying to build a Ram temple, we won’t be happy with this lollipop,” Katiyar said, referring to the museum. “We want a temple at Ramjanmabhoomi site, not a museum which is set to come up about 15 km from the site,” he added.
Katiyar, who as founder-president of Bajrang Dal was a prominent face of the Ramjanambhoomi movement said, “Wherever I go in Ayodhya, saints ask me when Ram Mandir will be built, good I did not go today (for the museum function).”