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Uttar Pradesh Gets into Poll Position as Parties Dust off Ram Mandir Issue

Sumit Pande | CNN-News18

First published: October 17, 2016, 11:30 PM IST | Updated: October 17, 2016
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Uttar Pradesh Gets into Poll Position as Parties Dust off Ram Mandir Issue
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: Much ahead of the official announcement of the poll dates, Uttar Pradesh is well and truly in election mode. And, after a long hiatus, Ram Temple is back in political discourse.

In a move that is being seen as an attempt to rake up temple issue in the poll-bound state, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma will visit the makeshift temple. The official reason being cited is that the minister's visit is to inspect the proposed site for a Ram Museum about 15km from the disputed site.

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"We don't plan according to elections. We have already sanctioned Rs 125 crore for the Ramayan Circuit to develop it as part of Tourism Ministry plans," says Sharma, trying to downplay the move.

"My visit to the makeshift temple is only part of my belief,” he adds.

But the BJP is not the only party which is trying to develop the temple town in the election season. The ruling Samajwadi Party seems to have got into the competitive politics with the state government led by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav giving a go-ahead for the release funds to develop amenities for tourists in the temple town, and construction of a Ram Theme Park in Ayodhya.

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After Allahabad and Varanasi, Ayodhya has the largest footfall of domestic tourists in Uttar Pradesh — nearly 1.5 crore every year.

The move by the state government is also an indication of the changing contours of politics in the SP under the next-gen as against the earlier party regimes whose politics was buffeted entirely by the Muslim-Yadav, or MY, combination.

The SP government, however, tried to soften the political impact of the decision by announcing an increase in remuneration to madrasa teachers in the state.

As for the BJP, the first indication of party's attempts at dusting the issue out of the courtroom was inherent in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's presence at Aishbagh Ramleela this Vijayadashami. After many years, a public address of a BJP leader in UP started and ended with the slogan of 'Jai Shri Ram'.

Since then, many party leaders and MPs actively associated with the Ram Temple movement in late eighties and early nineties. Union Minister Uma Bharti said "that disputed land in Ayodhya belongs to the Ram Temple". She is also likely to flag off one of the four Parivartan Yatras being planned by party in the run up to the polls.

Another prominent face of the movement, Vinay Katiyar, former MP from Faizabad-Ayodhya, is talking about taking legislative route for the construction of the temple.

BSP chief Mayawati, who is trying to woo Muslims to forge a formidable Dalits Muslim coalition in UP, in a press statement criticised both the central and state governments for "trying to drag religion into politics”.

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