According to political pundits, no political party can win the Lok Sabha Elections in India without winning a majority of seats from Uttar Pradesh. Assembly elections are due in the north Indian state a few months from now. What Uttar Pradesh is to India though, the city of Ayodhya is to the state itself – politically crucial.
Every political party wants its presence to be felt in Ayodhya at the moment. There also seems to be no end to sops by the Centre and the UP government for it.
The Bahujan Samaj Party is once again trying its hand at the social engineering formula used by the party in 2007. It will try to woo Brahmin votes in the run-up to the 2022 polls. The party’s Brahmin face, Satish Chandra Mishra, will hold a series of meetings with members of the community across the state after July 23; the venue of the first meeting – Ayodhya. This, despite the fact that the party has always kept itself away from the temple issue.
“It can be said without any doubt that Ram and the temple issue can polarise and mobilise Hindu voters in Uttar Pradesh. The Hindus can be influenced in the name of Ram,” said S.K. Dwivedi, former head of the political science department at Lucknow University.
Dwivedi said the temple issue was age-old, but added that the structure was now taking shape in Ayodhya.
“A Hindu voter, especially in Uttar Pradesh, is too politically conscious and knows who is responsible for the construction of the temple. It is obvious that the party getting most of the votes of the majority community will form the government in Lucknow. Hence, unlike in the past, BSP leaders are now rushing to Ayodhya, obviously to woo the Hindus,” said Dwivedi. “Parties like the BSP and SP don’t want the BJP to get credit for the temple,” he added.
The SP and the Aam Aadmi Party have also been active in matters related to Ayodhya. The leaders of the two parties had alleged that there were irregularities in the purchase of land in Ayodhya by Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra, the trust that is overseeing the construction of the temple.
Veteran journalist Brijesh Shukla from Lucknow has been closely following the temple issue since the late 1980s. He said the times have changed. “In the late 1980s, Rajiv Gandhi launched the election campaign for parliamentary elections from Ayodhya, but the move by the Congress Party had backfired then. The temple was earlier a myth; it has now become a reality,” Shukla said.
He said the temple issue was once considered forbidden by all political parties except the Bharatiya Janata Party, since nobody wanted to antagonise the minority communities.
“Earlier, political parties believed that Muslim votes were also necessary to win elections. But, the BJP has proved them wrong. Hence, now every political party wants to woo the Hindu voters as well,” said Shukla. “Earlier, there was an uncertainty about the temple, but now it’s coming up. Why will political parties alienate the Hindu voters?” he asked.
“Why is it that all of a sudden every political party, whether it is the SP, BSP or AAP, is doing something or the other in Ayodhya? They want to show to the people they also support the construction of the temple. They don’t want the Hindus vote to go only to the BJP," said Shukla.
The Uttar Pradesh government launched about 15 schemes in Ayodhya as the temple construction began. Though the process will take time, the state government wants most of the schemes to be completed by the time the assembly elections take place.
A Ram Leela programme has been planned towards the end of August in Ayodhya by the district administration in which artists from different parts of the state will perform.
On Wednesday, surface transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari tweeted that an ancient pilgrimage route that leads to Ayodhya will be upgraded as a national highway at the cost of Rs 3,000 crore.
Manoj Tripathi, a political analyst in Kanpur said, “The Ram temple is an emotive issue and Ayodhya is the pie everyone wants a share from."
The construction of the temple is ongoing but Tripathi believes it won’t bring the dividends that the BJP is expecting in the next assembly election. "The construction of the temple is on but the BJP horribly lost the Panchayat elections not just in Ayodhya, but in other Hindu religious places of like Varanasi and Mathura,” he said.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.