History, politics in the air as a Gandhi visits Ayodhya after two decades
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi prayed at a temple in Ayodhya on Friday, becoming the first member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to visit the town in Uttar Pradesh since 1992, when a disputed mosque was demolished by a Hindu mob.india Updated: Sep 10, 2016 00:38 IST
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi prayed at a temple in Ayodhya on Friday, the first visit by a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to the Uttar Pradesh town since the demolition of the disputed Babri mosque by Hindutva activists in 1992.
The BJP was quick to term the visit “politically motivated” though Gandhi offered prayers at the Hanuman Garhi temple, a kilometre from the spot where the foundation stone was laid in 1989 for construction of a Ram Temple to replace the razed mosque.
The visit was high on symbolic value with the Congress attempting to end its nearly three-decades-long exile in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh where caste and religion influence voters.
Gandhi also met Gyan Das, the seer of the temple, at his residence nearby. “All politicians come here to seek blessings and I bless everyone. I also blessed Rahul Gandhi. He is a nice man,” said Das, who is known for his stand against the right-wing Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
As a convoy of cars, buses and open trucks rolled into the temple town, people rushed out of their houses to catch a glimpse of the Congress leader. Former Prime Minister and Rahul’s father’s, Rajeev Gandhi, had visited the historic town in 1990.
Rahul had with him a picture of Lord Hanuman and a Ramnami chadar — a piece of cloth with the name of Ram printed on it.
Hindu groups claim that the disputed Babri Masjid, which was attacked on December 6, 1992, was built by the Mughals after razing a temple at the birthplace of Ram. The demolition of the mosque marked an important chapter in Indian politics and remains a flashpoint of tensions between Hindus and Muslims.
Later, Rahul visited a Dalit colony in Ayodhya’s twin city Faizabad and interacted with students.
Political analysts view Rahul’s visit as an attempt to change the Congress’ perceived pro-minority image, believed to be one of the contributing factors for the party’s near decimation in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The VHP and a section of saints of Ayodhya, however, said the Congress leader’s prayers would not yield any result without ‘darshan’ of Ramlala, the idol of Ram installed at the disputed site.
“The darshan of Hanumanji is incomplete without paying obeisance to Lord Ram. Has Rahul not paid obeisance to Ramlala to appease the Muslims? His family members had also done incomplete ‘darshan’ and the results are visible,” VHP spokesman Sharad Sharma said.
(With inputs from agencies)