AYODHYA: The workshop adjacent to the temple site in Ayodhya, which is a prominent part of the visitors’ itinerary, evokes curiosity with its model of the proposed grand Ram temple. But even as sculptors from Gujarat and Rajasthan carve out motifs on huge ‘shilas,’ the temple issue seems to have been forgotten somewhere in the poll cacophony in the land of Lord Rama.
“The temple can never be on the backburner. Since the Supreme Court has set up a panel for mediation, it’s better to have a little patience,” said Sharad Sharma, regional spokesman of VHP.
On the other hand, despite pained by Modi giving the makeshift temple a miss during his visit to Ayodhya for a rally on May 1, former BJP MP and Babri demolition accused Ram Vilas Vedanti said, “If any government could build the temple, it is the BJP government.”
Not only Vedanti, other saints and seers, including Nritya Gopal Das of Ramjanma Bhoomi Nyas, Dharam Das of Nirmohi Akhada and Satyendra Das, head priest of the makeshift temple, believe that the PM should have had a ‘darshan’.“He goes to every temple. Why miss Ram Lalla’s janmabhoomi?” a seer wondered.
Iqbal Ansari, one of the litigants from the Muslim side in Ayodhya title suit, feels that Modi government had worked for ‘sabka saath sabka viaks’. “Congress betrayed Muslims for 60-70 years. The shrine was unlocked during Congress regime and the mosque was demolished when Congress was at the Centre,” said Ansari.
His claim, however, was rejected by another litigant Haji Mehboob, who felt that it was the Kalyan Singh government which facilitated the demolition. “Kalyan Singh did not honour the affidavit which he had submitted before the Supreme Court to safeguard the structure,” Mehboob said.
However, other issues like development and unemployment are equally vital poll determinants here, besides caste, which the SP-BSP alliance is relying on. Anurag Vaishya, a member of Spic Macay, feels the next government should focus on the development of Ayodhya, which is being projected as a major destination for religious tourism.
“Though the proposed airport in Ayodhya will increase connectivity with the world, industry, especially hospitality, institutions of higher education and other avenues should also be developed in Faizabad parliamentary constituency to improve the employment scenario,” said Anurag.
Trader Giridhar Agarwal claimed demonetisation or GST didn’t any adverse impact on businessmen in the temple town. “A new pair of shoes pinches initially. With time, it settles comfortably on the feet. Initially, there were some glitches as people were learning the nuances of GST, but now everything is streamlined. For honest traders, it’s good,” said Agarwal, footwear shop owner in Chowk area.
Refusing to divulge his electoral choice, Ramesh Kumar, who supplies flowers to over 4,000 temples in the city, believes whoever is elected should pay attention to the restoration of dilapidated temples, the heritage of Ayodhya. Many echoed his sentiment.
The temple town is part of Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency. Faizabad district ceased to exist after being renamed Ayodhya by the Yogi Adityanath government.
Comprising five assembly constituencies - Rudauli, Milkipur, Dariyabad, Bikapur and Ayodhya - the seat has not been a BJP bastion despite firebrand saffron leader Vinay Katiyar being elected thrice in the wake of the Ram Temple movement.
Sitting BJP MP Lallu Singh, a kar sewak who was part of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, was elected as many as five times from the Ayodhya assembly seat. This time, he is in the LS poll fray against Samajwadi Party’s Anand Sen, son of Mitra Sen Yadav, former Faizabad MP, and Congress’s Nirmal Khatri, who has also won the seat twice. Although Sen has the support of Yadavs and Muslims of Faizabad, an old rape and murder case haunts him.
As one moves towards the famous Guptar Ghat along the banks of Saryu, around 50 labourers are busy restoring the place where Lord Ram is believed to have taken Jal Samadhi (watery grave).
“People know Ayodhya only for being the birth place of Lord Rama. Very few are aware that Ayodhya is also the place where he met his end. Guptar Ghat is that place. No government paid attention to its maintenance and beautification till Yogi Adityanath became chief minister,” said Anshul Tiwari, a 28-year-old Faizabad university graduate.
Arshad, said, “Those who don’t vote for the BJP are also desh bhakts (patriots).”
As one moves towards Faizabad city, Santosh Yadav, who works in Noida asks, “Where are the jobs?”
If Modi factor seems to move Ayodhya and Faizabad, the alliance has support of 13% Yadavs, 15% Muslims and 4% Dalits, cumulatively more than the 29% Upper Caste Hindu voters. The BJP also has its eyes on 13% non-Yadav OBCs and 10% MBC’s.