Much has changed in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 24 years since the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.
This change is reflected in the party’s four Parivartan Rath Yatras in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP leaders, with the exception of party MP Vinay Katiyar, have used the yatras to promise development, not temple, in the 32 days of their travel in the poll-bound state.
“Temple and development aren’t contradictory. I will continue to raise the temple issue with as much passion as development,” Katiyar, a product of the temple movement of the 90s, told HT.
His party colleagues don’t seem to be so sure on this.
“Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, our focus is on development, more development and even more development. Our Parivartan Rath Yatras are reiterating the same,” BJP national secretary Mahendra Singh, also the yatra in-charge, said.
None of the four yatras are scheduled to be in Ayodhya on the 24th demolition anniversary on Tuesday. They are going to be in Rampur, Aligarh, Kaushambi and Balrampur instead. “The yatras are moving as per schedule,” said Singh.
In his Parivartan rallies, Modi has chosen to avoid the temple issue, a line that most of the party has taken. Modi had steer clear of the temple issue during his meeting with Ayodhya saints in Gorakhpur in July.
Instead, Modi had sought the support of saints for various social initiatives of his government.
Two months later, union minister Mahesh Sharma visited Ayodhya with a development package for the temple city. He fast-tracked a proposal for a Ramayana museum in Ayodhya, announced plans to renovate old temples but kept mum on whether the Modi government planned to push the temple issue.
Ahead of Sharma’s visit, UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had announced a Ramleela theme park in Ayodhya to showcase his government’s development plan for the religious city.
People of Ayodhya admit that they are bored of the temple talk. “I feel we have had enough of rhetoric. Only those parties which talk development would have our vote,” said Shiv Pujan, 27, the head of Ashapur village in Ayodhya.