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Ram Temple Issue Will be BJP Poll Plank in Uttar Pradesh: Subramanian Swamy

Zeba Warsi | CNN-News18

First published: October 12, 2016, 8:31 PM IST | Updated: October 12, 2016
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Ram Temple Issue Will be BJP Poll Plank in Uttar Pradesh: Subramanian Swamy
Prime Minister Narendra Modi performs the aarti at a Ramlila event in Lucknow’s Aishbagh ground on Tuesday. (PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)

New Delhi: Construction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and surgical strikes in Pakistan will be the two central issues on which BJP will contest next year’s Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, party MP and national executive member Subramanian Swamy told CNN-News18, raising the prospect of a deeply polarised period ahead in India’s most electorally significant state.

“This issue (Ram Mandir) has not gone anywhere. If we don’t raise it in UP, then where will we raise it? It is on our manifesto and will definitely be our main focus,” he said.

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Swamy is the first member of the BJP’s national executive, a body second in importance to the powerful parliamentary board, to speak about the Ram Mandir as a major election issue.

His argument runs counter to BJP President Amit Shah utterances on the issue. Shah has long said that the party will fight elections in UP on the plank of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet theme of “good governance” and will offer a message of change to the state’s voters.

BJP spokesperson Zafar Islam refused to comment on what Swamy said on the Ram Mandir issue but he cautioned not to read too much into Modi’s Ramlila speech in Lucknow on Tuesday.

“Too much is being read into the slogan (Jai Shri Ram) by the PM yesterday. While celebrating Holi, you don’t wish people Happy Diwali. Similarly, at Ramlila one would naturally say Jai Shri Ram,” he told News18.

The BJP won elections in UP in 1991 riding the wave of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that demanded a Ram temple be built in place of the Babri Masjid. The mosque was demolished by kar sevaks (volunteers) of the movement who built a makeshift temple at the disputed site on December 6, 1992, triggering the dismissal of the UP Assembly.

The BJP has raised the Ram temple issue in subsequent campaigns, but it didn’t yield tangible electoral dividends.

About the cross-LoC surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army last month, Swamy said the Prime Minister, and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar deserve full credit for the decision and dismissed opposition allegations that the BJP was politicising the surgical strikes.

“Yes, the PM did advise against chest-thumping but the defence minister is the authorised person to speak. As far as BJP leaders go, we will speak our mind and take all the credit that the party rightfully deserves,” he said.

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