BJP general secretary incharge of Uttar Pradesh, Amit Shah, sought to revive his party’s core electoral constituency on Saturday by reaffirming its “commitment” to build the Ram Temple in Ayodhya – an announcement that immediately came under fire from major political parties.Amid chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’, Shah, who visited the makeshift Ramlala Temple, said: “We all should come together to ensure that the temple is built at the earliest and Ramlala is established in it.” Shah, a close confidant of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was in Ayodhya for a meeting of party leaders from the Awadh region.
While his statement is being seen as BJP’s larger effort to regain its lost ground in the politically-crucial state, party leaders insist it would only be one of the many issues for the ‘younger’ Team Modi that will build its campaign themes on development and clean governance, and highlight the UPA government’s inefficiencies and corruption scandals.
The Ram Temple movement, which pitchforked the BJP into pole position in the ’90s, brought the upper castes, non-Yadav OBCs and a significant section of the Dalits (before BSP’s advent) together. The party, however, was pushed to the margins in the early part of last decade. While the Dalits and Brahmins gravitated towards the BSP, the Rajputs moved towards Samajwadi Party in large numbers. The non-Yadav OBCs split between the BSP and the SP. The BJP is now hoping to rally them back behind it.
“The demand to build Ramjanmabhoomi Temple at the disputed site is election neutral. The main focus will be gross mal-governance and stinking corruption of the UPA which leaves a legacy of suffering India and insecure India. However, the Ramjanmabhoomi demand is part of a larger demand of Hindu ethos and sentiment world over,” said BJP leader .
Congress hits out
The Congress, however, reacted angrily with senior party leader Pramod Tiwari calling for a ban on Shah’s entry into UP. “The state government should look into the matter and take steps. Shah is still out on bail and is spreading communal tension besides dividing the society,” he said.
Union I&B Minister Manish Tewari said, “It is surprising that a year before the elections the BJP starts missing Lord Ram. They are trying to fool the people of India. Shah, on the other hand, said India wants a ‘Congress-free’ government. “We have to wipe out corruption from the root level and ensure a clean and fair governance,” he said.
The ruling Samajwadi Party in UP hit out at Shah and the BJP. “Those involved in caste and religion based politics have become active in the state ahead of the elections and hiring coordinators from outside for this. The BJP and its parent organisation RSS are involved in spreading communal hatred in the state and the country. However, the people of the state are intelligent and no one can mislead them,” SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said.
JD (U) leader Shivanand Tiwari said, “They (BJP) are showing their true colours and Modi’s ascension is for implementing RSS’s agenda.” BJP general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan said reactions by political parties were a reflection of their “nervousness”. “Where else would we talk of Ram temple, if not in India? In US? Arabia? What makes Congress nervous about Shah and Modi.”