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Rising in the Lord’s name, again

Temple and poll in mind, VHP plans nationwide ‘Ram Darbars’ on Durga Puja, Ganesh Chaturthi lines, reports Sunita Aron.
Hindustan Times | By Sunita Aron, Ayodhya
UPDATED ON APR 05, 2008 03:03 AM IST

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is all set to resurrect the moribund Ram temple issue before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. For the first time in its history, the Parishad plans countrywide ‘Ram Darbars’ on the lines of Durga Puja and Ganesh Chaturthi festivals during the forthcoming Ram Navmi festival.

As per the plan, the idols of Ram, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman would be installed in public places for two to eight days from April 6 to 14. Social programmes alongside religious sermons by VHP-associated saints would be held to draw the public to the ‘pandals’.

The festival would culminate with a ‘shobha yatra’ (procession) in which the idols would be carried to a local temple for their installation, unlike the other two festivals in which the idols of Durga and Ganapati are immersed in the rivers.

The VHP had prepared the moulds at its workshop here at Ramsewakpuram, which were later sent to all the states. Clay idols measuring about two to three feet were later made at 57 places all over the country.

Sharad Saxena, VHP’s spokesperson said: “The plan is to organise ‘Ram Darbars’ in over one lakh villages in the country.” According to him, the VHP wanted public involvement in organising ‘Ram Darbars’ — from making of the idols to their installation in local temples. Thus, a decision was taken to send the moulds to all the states.

It may be recalled that the VHP, at its third annual convention in Allahabad last year, had distributed thousands of Ram idols to the delegates. Its senior leader Ashok Singhal had also announced construction of a Ram temple in every village of the country in the run up to their “grand finale construction” of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

VHP national Secretary Rajendra Singh Pankaj said: “It is just a beginning. Soon, ‘Ram Darbars’ would be organised in the country with the same fervour as Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja.” However, he admits that it may take some years.

“We experimented with the ‘Ram Darbar’ programme with few villages two years back. The overwhelming response propelled us to cover over one lakh villages this year with special focus on the tribal belts. Next year may be we will go to big towns and big places. After all, Lord Rama unites one and all with his message of social harmony,” added Pankaj.

Asked if the programme aimed at building tempo for their abandoned plans to construct a Ram temple in Ayodhya, he said: “Obviously, that remains our main agenda.”

VHP’s Joint Secretary Champat Rai, who has monitored all the preparations, disagreed with the contention that VHP’s public mobilisation programme of late had flopped. He claimed: “We have displayed our strength at our recent Ram Setu rally in Delhi.”

May be time has now come for the VHP to test the puissance of the issue that once its political arm Bhartiya Janata Party had thought would take it to the central throne.

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