BJP’s Uttar Pradesh chief Keshav Prasad Maurya has brought back the controversial issue of Ram Temple in Ayodhya ahead of the February 11 first phase polling in the polarised western region of the state.
Maurya and an MP from Phulpur flagged the issue on Tuesday at the party office in Delhi suggesting that a Bharatiya Janata Party government in UP would pave the way for a Ram temple.
“Ram Mandir is an act of faith ... Temple will become a reality in UP after a BJP government comes to power in the state,” Maurya, a former Vishwa Hindu Parishad functionary, said.
Several BJP and pro-Hindutva leaders have been prodding the Narendra Modi government on the issue which had catapulted the saffron party to power, both in UP and at the Centre in the 1990s. The issue is currently in the Supreme Court.
In 2014 soon after the Modi government came to power in UP, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh veteran Dattatreya Hosbale refused to set a temple timeframe before the government. “The government has time till 2019,” Hosbale said during the three-day meet of the RSS’ all-India working committee in Lucknow.
Maurya’s remark came two months after the head of the Ram Janmbhoomi Nyas, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, described the Modi government as ‘Ram bhakton ki sarkar’ (a government of Ram worshippers).
“During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, we would tell the people that temple would become a reality if Modi becomes the PM. Now, we are hopeful that we would have a grand temple,” Das said.
Maurya’s remark has provided fodder to the opposition that sought to play it up as the BJP’s plan to give ‘communal colour’ to state assembly elections especially ahead of the first phase of polls in western UP.
However, Maurya later clarified that his comments were taken out of context. “I never made any such remark,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh BJP’s media in-charge Harish Srivastava seemed to play down Maurya’s comment more forcefully.
“We aren’t going back on our temple commitment. It will surely happen. But please don’t jump the gun. The party has cleared that temple issue should be resolved either through court or consensus,” he said.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stayed clear of making any commitment on the temple during his meeting with temple saints in Gorakhpur in July last year.
However, Union minister for culture and tourism Mahesh Sharma’s said in October last year that a proposed Ramayana museum in Ayodhya will be on fast track and his move was interpreted as an attempt to consolidate the Hindu votes ahead of the assembly polls.
Other political parties also attempted to reopen the debate over the divisive Ram Temple issue.
For its part, the ruling Samajwadi Party tried to counterbalance the BJP move with a decision to construct a Ramleela theme park in Ayodhya, where a Hindu mob demolished the historic Babri Masjid on December 2, 1992.
Right-wing Hindu organisations say Ram was born on the spot and the temple must be built there.