IN WHAT will be the first direct train service from Ayodhya to any state in South India, a train is set to link the city in Uttar Pradesh to Rameswaram, a major Hindu pilgrim centre in Tamil Nadu, from July-end. Lallu Singh, the BJP MP from Ayodhya, said the train is expected to be flagged off from Ayodhya station on July 29.
The move is politically significant given the BJP’s attempts to expand its footprints in the five southern states. It is also seen as a move to capitalise the renewed fervour around Ram Janmabhoomi.
The Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameswaram is considered one of the holiest shrines for Hindus, and it is one of the Char Dham sites. Some religious texts and mythology says Ram built a bridge – called Ram Sethu, or Adam’s bridge – across the sea to Lanka to from near Rameshwaram. “This will be part of a comprehensive development plan for the holy city. There is no politics in it – devotees want to see them (religious places) in good shape,” Singh said.
The same day, Singh said, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will lay the foundation stone for a modernised railway station at Ayodhya.
Ayodhya has a significant place in the minds of the people, and both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath are keen to see the city developed, Singh said.
As part of a joint state-Centre development plan Ayodhya, the temple town will also get infrastructure such as multi-level parking, a multi-purpose hall, a modernised bus terminal and a cargo-civil airport. The Union Culture Ministry has already decided to set up a state-of-the-art museum, depicting versions of Ramayana, in the city. “Such projects will bring in more tourists also to the area, opening up new job avenues,” Singh said.
The MP said the state BJP and he had opposed proposals of the previous Samajwadi Party government for the temple town since those were “wrong proposals”to “get funds and misuse them” in the name of Ayodhya.
Although the government maintains that the Ayodhya dispute can be solved only through talks, the BJP is keen on keeping the issue alive for its purported ability in consolidating Hindu votes across the country ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.