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Regaining foothold in Ayodhya-Faizabad no cakewalk for BJP

Construction of Ram Temple is on longer an emotive issue in Ayodhya, the land of Lord Ram. As the voter is silent, the BJP and its main rivals -- the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) -- are also confused.

lucknow Updated: Mar 04, 2017 19:25 IST
Pawan Dixit
Pawan Dixit
Faizabad, Hindustan Times
Uttar Pradesh assembly elections 2017,Ayodhya,Ram Temple
Construction of Ram Temple is no longer an emotive issue in Ayodhya.(Ashok Dutta/HT Photo)

Regaining its foothold in the twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad will be a prestige issue for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in UP assembly polls.

Construction of Ram Temple is on longer an emotive issue in Ayodhya, the land of Lord Ram. As the voter is silent, the BJP and its main rivals -- the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) -- are also confused.

The BSP has given ticket to Bazmi Siddiqui, who is Ayodhya’s first Muslim candidate for mainstream political party in decades, which has made the contest in this temple town all the more interesting.

Which way will the Muslims go? It remains to be seen if they support sitting SP MLA Tej Narayan Pandey or BSP’s Siddiqui on February 27, when Uttar Pradesh goes to the fifth phase of polling.

In the ’90s, the temple movement in Ayodhya had catapulted BJP to the centre stage of national politics. As time elapsed, BJP lost its hold on voters in Ayodhya and Faizabad.

In 2012 assembly polls, out of five assembly seats in Faizabad -- Ayodhya, Milkipur, Goshaiganj, Rudauli, Bikapur -- four went to the Samajwadi Party. The BJP had to remain content with only Rudauli.

Even the prestigious Ayodhya assembly seat went to Tej Narayan Pandey aka Pawan Panday of the Samajwadi Party causing much embarrassment to the BJP.

“Ram Mandir is no longer an issue for youth in Ayodhya. We want employment and better job prospects,” said Harsh Tewari,22, who resides in a narrow lane near the historic Hanuman Garhi temple in Ayodhya.

When asked if he was satisfied with the sitting SP MLA Tej Narayan Pandey, said he would vote for change.

Pandey, who was also a minister in the Samajwadi Party government, had created history in 2012 assembly poll by defeating BJP’s Lallu Singh by over 6,000 votes.

However, riding on the Modi wave in 2014 general election, Lallu Singh won the Faizabad parliamentary seat on a BJP ticket.

Kiran Pal, 51, runs a grocery store on the Ayodhya-Faizabad road. With saffron ‘tilak’ on his forehead, Pal looks like just another resident of the temple town.

Like any other local of Ayodhya, Pal is not willing to disclose his political inclination.

Pal opens up after much cajoling. “At the local level, the sitting Samajwadi Party MLA has done much work. He deserves another chance,” Pal said.

Just a few metres from Pal’s grocery store, Ikhlaq Hussain runs a small roadside vegetable stall.

Earning a daily living to make two ends meet, Hussain has to take care of three children, wife and an ailing father.

Unlike other locals of Ayodhya, Hussain is more vocal.

“If in this election Muslims vote for the BSP’s Bazmi Siddiqui, SP will lose Ayodhya seat. If they remain with the SP, then Tej Narayan has a chance to retain the seat,” Hussain said.

It seems the BSP candidate has made the Ayodhya contest a triangular fight.

However, senior VHP leader Sharad Sharma, who sits at Karsevak Puram, Ayodhya, said the voters would prefer candidates who had faith in cow and Hindu values.

“The saint community in Ayodhya is confident people will vote for a candidate who is capable of bringing a change in the society,” said Sharma.

Without naming BJP, Sharma is confident that people would vote for change this election.

Read more: PM Modi fans leading BJP’s campaign in the tough battle for Kashi in UP election

First Published: Feb 25, 2017 13:19 IST