The BJP’s stunning victory in Uttar Pradesh was a vote for the “nationalist powers” and will pave the way for the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said on Saturday.

Welcoming the BJP’s crushing majority in India’s largest state, the VHP – an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – said it expected the construction of the temple to start at the earliest.

“We believed earlier too that the BJP will fulfill the demand (for a temple), but there is no doubt now that the Ram Temple will be constructed in Ayodhya. We now expect the BJP to do it at the earliest,” Surendra Jain, the international joint general secretary of the VHP told HT.

The Shiv Sena also echoed the same sentiment and congratulated the BJP. “Ram’s period of exile has ended,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut told reporters.

His comments came as trends and results for UP showed the BJP on course for a two-thirds majority in the state, leaving the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance and the Bahujan Samaj Party far behind.

The RSS-affiliate has been steering the Ram Temple movement and has been pressing the BJP to expedite construction in an issue that is emotive for many Hindus. The controversial temple is also at the heart of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the nineties that benefited the BJP. VHP wants a temple built at the site where the Babri Masjid – which was demolished in 1992 – once stood.

During the election campaign for the seven-phases UP polls, the BJP brass stayed away from publicly campaigning from the contentious issue, even as some of its more hard-line members such as Yogi Adityanath, stoked the issue to consolidate the Hindutva vote.

The MP – known to make provocative speeches – ensured that the issue of a Temple in Ayodhya found a mention in his public speeches. He assured that a temple would come up even as he took potshots at his opponents, the SP and the BSP for engaging in politics on communal lines.

Senior BJP leader in the state, Vinay Katiyar also raised the issue several times, he was quoted by ANI to have asserted that ‘development, education and employment are there in the city, but are meaningless without the temple’.

The RSS and BJP leadership however maintained a safe stance. While RSS brass refrain from commenting on the issue, BJP president Amit Shah chose to leave the decision to the Supreme Court, which is hearing the issue and said, the government under BJP rule would follow constitutional norms to build Ram Mandir in UP.

While releasing the manifesto in Lucknow, he said his government would press for an early solution to the temple issue within the ambit of the constitution.

The VHP, however thinks the issue, which has been a flashpoint between the communities for over decades, could be resolved if the government opts for brining a Bill in Parliament. Jain earlier told Hindustan Times that the VHP has already met over 500 MPs across party lines and has secured their support for the Ram Temple.