UP polls: As Ayodhya votes, Vinay Katiyar plays Ram temple tune again

Hindustan Times, Lucknow | By, Lucknow
Feb 27, 2017 08:53 PM IST

For the OBC leader, the building of a Ram temple as has been promised by the BJP, is still the most important issue.

The Ayodhya temple movement of the 1990s catapulted both the BJP and firebrand OBC leader Vinay Katiyar into limelight.

A sadhu shows his inked finger after casting his vote at a polling booth during the fifth phase of UP assembly election in Ayodhya on Monday.(Arun Sharma/HT PHOTO)
A sadhu shows his inked finger after casting his vote at a polling booth during the fifth phase of UP assembly election in Ayodhya on Monday.(Arun Sharma/HT PHOTO)

For the largely marginalised Katiyar, the building of a Ram temple as promised by the BJP is still the most important issue, even in the current Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

“Mandir ke bina Ayodhya kya hain? Uske bagair koi bhi vikas nahin ho sakta. Mandir se hi kalyan hoga. Usisey vikas hoga. Isiliye main kehta hoon ki Ayodhya vaasiyon ko toh sirf mandir chahiye (What is Ayodhya without temple? There can be no development without temple. In fact, temple is integral to Ayodhya’s development. That is why I say that Ayodhya residents can’t do without temple),” Katiyar told HT over phone.

Voters in the temple town exercising their franchise in the fifth of the seven-phase polls in the state on Monday leaned towards “development”, not the temple. By 11 am, approximately 12% of the 3,16,723 voters had turned up.

That there are few takers for hardline politics that Katiyar offers has been obvious from the dwindling crowds commemorating the December 6, 1992 demolition of Babri mosque.

The saffron brigade celebrates it as ‘Vijay Diwas’ (Victory Day) while Muslims observe the ‘Yaum-e-Gham’ (day of mourning). The crowd and rabble rousers on both sides have thinned down over the years, indicating that the temple issue doesn’t evoke the same response it once did.

Notably, since the demolition, BJP’s graph has successively dipped in each election.

In Ashapur village, which lies three kilometres from the site where the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and BJP leaders believe Lord Ram was born, the village head Shiv Pujan doesn’t feel burdened by the past.

“I don’t know about Katiyarji but as far as I am concerned it (the main issue) is development,” says Pujan.

“Yes, we would like a temple to come up. But such has been the politics around it that we would rather prefer to visit our local temple for divine connect than get bogged down by issues that have taken us nowhere,” he told HT over phone.

While several senior party leaders like Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Uma Bharti have said that the BJP could have considered fielding a Muslim in UP, Katiyar bluntly supported the party’s decision to not field any Muslim in the polls.

“I have no hesitation in reiterating that since Muslims don’t vote for us, the party doesn’t field them either,” he said.

Since 2002, BJP has just fielded a Muslim once. Alam Saifi, the lone Muslim BJP candidate in 2012 UP polls, was fielded from Sahaswan assembly constituency of Muslim-dominated Badaun, but ended up losing his deposit.

However, 229 Hindu candidates put up by the party in 2012 too met the same fate.

Interestingly, the BSP has fielded a Muslim candidate in Ayodhya this time, M Bazmi Siddekea, a first by any mainstream political party.


    Manish Chandra Pandey is a Lucknow-based assistant editor with Hindustan Times’ political bureau in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Along with political reporting, he loves to write off beat/human interest stories that people connect with. Manish also covers departments. He feels he has a lot to learn not just from veterans but from the newcomers who make him realise that there is so much to unlearn

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