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BJP Raises Ram Mandir Pitch; Mahesh Sharma to Visit Ayodhya for Ramayana Museum

Updated: October 17, 2016, 6:24 PM IST
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BJP Raises Ram Mandir Pitch; Mahesh Sharma to Visit Ayodhya for Ramayana Museum
Bajrang Dal and VHP activists raise slogans in favour of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya on December 6, 2015, the 23rd anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. (FILE PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)

New Delhi: The BJP raised its Ram Mandir pitch on Monday with Union Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma announcing a visit to Ayodhya on Tuesday to inspect the proposed site for setting up a Ramayana museum.

Hours later, his Cabinet colleague Uma Bharti reiterated that the dispute land “was and always belonged to Ram”. At a press conference, the Union Water Resources Minister said there was no doubt that Ram was born in Ayodhya.

In yet another move seen as an attempt to woo pro-Hindutva elements months before the assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, BJP MP Vinay Katiyar urged the Modi government to introduce a Bill in the Lok Sabha facilitating the construction of a Ram Temple at the site.

The upcoming elections in the country’s most politically significant state has once again shed the spotlight on the controversial issue, with the ruling Samajwadi Party government, too, jumping the bandwagon and approving the construction of a Ramleela theme park.

The BJP, however, has insisted that Ram Mandir is not a poll plank for the party. "My visit to Ayodhya has nothing to do with UP Assembly elections. I am visiting there as a Tourism Minister. It should not be linked to politics but is part of government's effort to improve tourism in Ayodhya and all over the country. The visit is part of developmental agenda," 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 circuit.

"Ram is in the heart of millions of people. As the Tourism Minister, I have to see how Ayodhya can be developed, how Ramayana circuit can be developed from tourism point of view," the minister said.

He said the government has identified three circuits — Ramayana Circuit, Krishna Circuit and Buddhist Circuit — to boost religious tourism.

The state government has identified a 25-acre plot for the museum which is some 15 km away from the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex, a source said.

Sharma will also hold a meeting with Ramayana Circuit Advisory Board during the visit. The meeting would discuss routes for connecting Ramayana-related sites in Nepal and Sri Lanka with the proposed museum.

The Union Minister would also deliberate on plans for an International Ramayana Conclave, which would be held either in Ayodhya or Chitrakoot district. The conference is likely to be attended by delegates from about 12 countries, sources said.

Sharma is likely to hold meetings with religious leaders on building the museum which would portray the epic journey of Lord Rama.

Tourism being a state subject, Sharma also sought help from Uttar Pradesh government for development of the circuits to give boost to tourism which, he said, has great potential to earn foreign exchange, employment generation and women empowernment.

Though the BJP has been insisting that Ram temple will not be an electoral plank in the UP elections to be held early next year, the proposed Ramayana museum and related activities are being seen as an attempt to keep pro-Hindutva elements in good humour.

On Dusshera, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, in a departure from tradition, participated in the festivities in Lucknow where he started and concluded his speech with chants of "Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram".

With PTI inputs

First Published: October 17, 2016, 6:18 PM IST
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