Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union Minister Mahesh Sharma’s visit to Ayodhya ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections has raised the question whether the BJP is trying to stir the fiery issue of rebuilding Ram Mandir in Ayodhya – believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama.
Sharma, a Lok Sabha MP representing the Gautam Budh Nagar constituency in UP, apparently visited the city to inspect the site for a Ramayana museum. Opposition parties were quick to raise fingers accusing the BJP of using the issue for political benefits ahead of the UP elections. Sharma insisted that he was visiting in his capacity as tourism minister and that this visit has nothing to do with Ram Mandir or the elections.
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Construction of Ram Mandir at Lord Rama’s birthplace–the site where Babri Masjid once stood–has been a long-standing demand of the Hindu community and that has been echoed by BJP leaders like Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar who have stated recently that “Ayodhya belongs to Ram”.
There has always been a demand to bring a law for the construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. Voters expected that the BJP would act sooner after it got elected on the issue given the fact several of its tall leaders spoke passionately about the issue while campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections. Now that Uttar Pradesh is going to polls next year, the BJP is seeking to keep a hold over its Hindu vote base.
The Samajwadi Party also tried to gain brownie points recently by announcing to open a Ramleela Theme Park in Ayodhya. With the growing anti-incumbency, the SP is willing to use such a strategy to cut the BJP support. The BJP, therefore, can’t stay away from the discourse. The BJP is the biggest political stakeholder in Ayodhya and needs to show intent on the Ram Mandir issue to hold on to its loyal Hindu support. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stayed away from the developments for now.
Middleweight politicos in the party have been vocal in support of the issue. The recent developments give a hint that the issue will crop up prominently in the election campaign. Whether the BJP announces plans for the Ram Mandir or not, it will be expected to move on the ground as the issue holds strength to sway results either way across several states