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As Ram Mandir Puts 'Vikas' on Back-burner, Brand Yogi Takes 2019 Spotlight

The BJP seems to be quickly shifting the focus back on the contentious and disputed issue of Ram temple. And more than any other leader, it's Yogi Adityanath who has become the face of this shift in the political discourse.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:November 4, 2018, 9:00 AM IST
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As Ram Mandir Puts 'Vikas' on Back-burner, Brand Yogi Takes 2019 Spotlight
File image of Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath. (Photo: PTI)
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Lucknow: In a span of just around 20 days - from Dussehra to now - the Ram mandir push has dominated the political discourse with various BJP leaders and the RSS voicing its concern for the construction of the temple at Ayodhya.

With political discourse witnessing a diversion, it's also the 'Brand Yogi' that is getting centrestage with increasing reliance on staunch Hindutva agenda ahead of the 2019 general elections.

It all began with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat urging the BJP to bring in a law for the construction of the temple during his Dussehra speech.
The question that needs answering is will Ram Mandir, and not Vikas, be the RSS agenda for 2019.

The BJP seems to be quickly shifting the focus back on the contentious and disputed issue of Ram temple. And more than any other leader, it's Yogi Adityanath who has become the face of this shift in the political discourse.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is often hailed as a 'Vikash Purush' by his admirers, has remained silent on the temple question, it's UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who seems to have taken upon himself the task of advocating a strong political line in favour of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

The question therefore is, is it a calculated move on the part of BJP-RSS or is it the natural political drive on the part of UP CM, who is known for his staunch and aggressive Hindutva agenda right since late '90s — when he first entered the Lok sabha from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Most BJP leaders are not willing to speak on the highly emotive and volatile subject, but political watchers point out some interesting facts. One, that the UP CM has not shied away from his hardcore Hindutva image.

Second, even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not visited Ayodhya even once, Yogi as Chief Minister was quick to visit the make-shift Ram Lalla temple at the disputed site not once but twice and even offered prayers.

Third, unlike the Prime Minister, Yogi has been vocal on the issue of Ram Temple. He is reported to have said "Bhagwan Ram will himself decide the date of temple construction". On another occasion, he said "There was a Ram Temple, there is a Ram temple and there will be a Grand Ram temple in Ayodhya".

Whenever questioned, in UP or elsewhere, Yogi has vocal on the issue and never short of emphasising that the issue of Ram Temple is close to his heart and that he wants it to be built at the earliest.

There is great anticipation about Yogi's next move as he visits Ayodhya again on Diwali.

"Yogi ji is not just a CM but also a saint and therefore he will definitely have something big on his mind. Let's wait till Diwali," said UP BJP president Mahendra Nath Pandey.

Sources close to the Chief Minister said that if all goes well, UP CM may lay the foundation stone for a grand Ram statue in Ayodhya. Maybe, a statue which can anywhere between 150 to 200 mt tall.

However, it must be noted that the UP Government or its chief has no role to play in any possible move on temple front. The ordinance or legislation route for the Ram temple rests only with the Centre. Yogi has taken a clear lead in endearing himself to the cause and thereby to hardliners within the BJP and Sangh parivar.

In the build up to 2019, it's 'Brand Yogi' that will be put to increasing use by the parivar and by extension the BJP. It was on display when Yogi was chosen to accompany Chhattisgarh CM Raman singh, while the latter filed his nomination.

On the larger political level, one can say that as the Modi government and the BJP come under increasing attack from the Opposition, especially the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi, it's a deliberate shift towards the Ram temple issue to divert the attention.

As claims about Vikas and good governance seem to be taking a hit following controversies and allegations around Rafale deal, the turmoil in the CBI and the government-RBI face-off, will Ram Mandir and Hindutva be the game changer?

If Ram Mandir is going to be the key agenda, then larger reliance on brand Yogi is on the cards. Though what it means for the BJP and Sangh's internal dynamics will have to be watched for.
| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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