As CBI court holds Babri hearings, temple issue hots up in Uttar Pradesh
Almost 25 years after the Babri Masjid was razed in Ayodhya, the spotlight has once again turned on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue in Uttar Pradesh, galvanising the workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party, back in power in the state after 15 years.
Daily hearings at a special CBI court in Lucknow on a case relating to the 1992 demolition of the mosque has put the focus on the temple -- on the back burner for several years -- and party leaders are elated.
BJP leaders are convinced the issue will help the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, as the momentum builds up on the building of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
"The matter is sub judice. But there is not an iota of political gesturing in the Ram Temple issue. It is a matter of faith and belief," UP BJP chief and deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said.
The BJP, which stormed to power in UP bagging 325 out of 403 assembly seats in March this year, believes that the temple issue will have the people's support.
"Every person wants a Ram Temple to be constructed in Ayodhya. And whenever the courts give a decision on any issue (related to the temple), there is some 'garmaahat' (galvanisation)," BJP national vice-president and Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha said.
On May 30, a special CBI court in Lucknow framed charges against 12 people -- including BJP veterans LK Advani and MM Joshi and Union minister Uma Bharti – in the demolition case.
The Supreme Court had ordered the restoration of a conspiracy charge against them.
The apex court's April 19 directive that the special court "complete the trial and deliver the judgment within a period of two years" from the date of the judgment may overlap with the holding of the 2019 general election, when the temple plank is likely to emerge as an emotive issue.
The temple, UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said, would "certainly have a bearing" on the Lok Sabha polls.
"Our party does not consider the Ayodhya issue as a political one, but the BJP is the only party which has raised this issue, and has even committed to constructing a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya while staying within the ambit of the Constitution," he said.
State leaders have already upped the ante.
"We know that the Ram Temple in Ayodhya will be built eventually," BJP national vice-president and Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha stressed. "It is a national issue, an issue which is directly linked to crores of countrymen," he said.
On May 31 -- a day after the criminal conspiracy charge was framed against the BJP leaders and others in Lucknow -- UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath prayed at the makeshift Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
He stressed the need for a resolution of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute through talks. "I want the dispute to be resolved through discussions," he said.
Maurya, too, added that the "best possible way" to resolve the issue would be through "mutual understanding and negotiations".
A day after Adityanath's Ayodhya visit, UP minister Shrikant Sharma said in Ballia a Ram Temple already existed in Ayodhya and all that it needed was a "grand" look.
"The Ram Temple is there in Ayodhya and will remain there. Now it has to be given a grand look," he said.
On May 9, the Uttar Pradesh government endorsed the setting up of two new municipal corporations for Ayodhya-Faizabad and Mathura-Vrindavan. The decision was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by Adityanath.
The idea was to provide "better amenities" to pilgrims, minister Sharma said. The Ayodhya Municipal Corporation will cover the twin cities of Faizabad and Ayodhya.
In Delhi, plans are afoot for the construction of a Ram-Ramayana museum -- to be located about six kilometres from the disputed Ram Temple site - which, a concept note states, will be like a "grand temple".