Ayodhya is back on focus ahead of next year’s assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Union water resources minister Uma Bharti said on Monday there was no dispute over Ayodhya being Ram’s birthplace, but the actual disagreement was over the land’s ownership.
“Even the panel of three judges (of the Allahabad high court) have concurred that the land belongs to Ram temple. The challenge is the dispute between the Waqf board and the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas over possession of the land and not whether Ram was born there or not,” she said.
Bharti promised the Ayodhya issue will soon be resolved “without any hassles”.
Her comments follow Union tourism minister Mahesh Sharma’s announcement that he will visit Ayodhya on Tuesday to inspect the proposed site for a Ramayana museum, a move interpreted as an attempt to consolidate the Hindu votes.
For its part, the ruling Samajwadi Party tried to counterbalance the BJP move with a decision to construct an international theme park in Ayodhya.
BJP leader and parliamentarian Vinay Katiyar too raked up the issue and requested the Centre to introduce a bill in Parliament to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya, saying the shrine is the BJP’s priority.
Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had said it would explore all possibilities within the Constitution for construction of the temple in Ayodhya.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress reacted sharply to the political jostle over Ayodhya, considered a political cornerstone after the Babri mosque there was destroyed by a mob in 1992 to build a temple in its place.
BSP chief and Dalit leader Mayawati accused the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government of “linking religion with politics” to gain electoral benefits.
“Developing tourism in Ayodhya is good, but how come the Narendra Modi government thought of developing the Ramayana Sangrahalay and the state government of Ramleela theme park just before the assembly polls?” she wondered.
Mayawati alleged that both parties were encouraging cheap publicity.
“Linking religion with politics and electoral gains by these governments is condemnable ... had they really been so concerned about these issues, they would have thought about them long ago,” she said.
But Sharma played down the political agenda behind the visit, saying it is part of the tourism development plans of the Modi government and should not be linked with elections in the politically crucial state.
“My visit to Ayodhya has nothing to do with UP elections. I am visiting there as a tourism minister. It should not be linked to politics, but is part of the government’s efforts to improve tourism in Ayodhya and all over the country,” he said.
Sharma said the museum will be a part of the Ramayana circuit for which the Centre has sanctioned Rs 225 crore, with Rs 151 crore exclusively for Ayodhya, which is the hub of the trail. The land for the proposed museum has been provided by the state government.
“Ram is in the heart of millions of people. As tourism minister, I have to see how Ayodhya can be developed, how Ramayana circuit can be developed from the tourism point of view,” the minister said.
His visit comes days after Prime Minister Modi, in a departure from tradition, participated in Dusshera festivities in Lucknow where he started and concluded his speech with chants of “Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram”.
The Congress took on the BJP for its Ayodhya agenda before the elections.
“Whenever elections are near, BJP rakes up the Ram Mandir issue. BJP is a party that has the least devotion towards Ram. They remember Ram only when elections are scheduled anywhere in the country,” party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
DMK chief M Karunanidhi also deprecated attempts to rake up the Ram temple issue ahead of UP assemly polls.
“There are reports that BJP is trying to rake up the Ram janmabhoomi issue to garner Hindu votes in Uttar Pradesh,” he said in a statement in Chennai.
The DMK patriarch took exception to Prime Minister Modi chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ at a Ram Leela event in Lucknow last week.
(With PTI inputs)