AAP convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday offered prayers at the Ram Janmabhoomi site and the Hanumangarhi temple in Ayodhya, after which he announced that senior citizens of Delhi would soon be able to undertake the pilgrimage to Ayodhya for free.
He said Ayodhya would be added to the list of spots under the Delhi government’s scheme for free pilgrimages.
His announcement prompted potshots from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who said that “one person” in Delhi had driven out people hailing from UP and Bihar during the Covid-19 pandemic and was now making promises of freebies.
Speaking to reporters after his visit to the shrines, Kejriwal said: “Delhi government is already running a scheme offering free teerth yatras and will include Ayodhya to the list in a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday… May lord shri Ram give me strength to bring more people to the sacred land of Ayodhya.”
“All that I have received – all my strength and resources – I wish to utilise to enable as many people as possible to visit the ‘Paavan Bhoomi’ of Lord Shri Ram,” he said, adding that if voted to power in the Assembly polls scheduled for 2022, the AAP government would make the pilgrimage to Ayodhya free for the people of UP.
Reacting to the move, Adityanath said while addressing a BJP event for OBCs in Lucknow: “There is a person from Delhi (Kejriwal) who had chased out UP, Bihar people from Delhi when lockdown was imposed. Now, he is saying I will give this and that for free… there is a need to tell him that he couldn’t even handle a small Delhi… now he is looking at UP when elections are coming.”
Without naming anybody, he added: “Earlier, they abused Lord Ram. Now, when they realise that they can’t win elections, they are also coming to Ayodhya for Ram Janmabhoomi darshan.”
Remarking that Opposition parties were now accepting the importance of Lord Ram, Adityanath said: “…otherwise there is no Opposition parties’ leader who did not criticise late babu ji (former CM Kalyan Singh) on December 6, 1992 (when Babri mosque was demolished in Ayodhya).”
Later in the day, Kejriwal hit back at Adityanath in a tweet in Hindi. “I have announced free Ayodhya pilgrimage to Delhi people and will implement it in UP too. Crores of people will be able to take darshan under this scheme. Yogiji, why do you have an issue with this?”
BJP MP from Delhi Gautam Gambhir on Tuesday targeted Kejriwal over his Ayodhya visit, alleging the Delhi CM was practising “double standards” in politics and trying to “wash away his sins” by offering prayers at the Ram Janmabhoomi site.
“All of us are aware of what (Arvind) Kejriwal and his associates have stated regarding the Ram temple issue on several occasions. Now he is trying to wash away his sins by going to Ayodhya,” Gambhir said.