Ayodhya: Modi stays silent on dubious land deals
The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust was not part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual meeting on Ayodhya on Saturday.
A day earlier, the town’s sadhus had demanded that Modi clarify the land scam allegations against the trust at the meeting.
A state government official who attended the hour-and-a-half meeting said it had been decided in the morning that the members of the trust, entrusted with building the Ram temple, would not attend it.
“We had been told four days ago that chief minister Yogi Adityanath, his cabinet members, senior state and district (Ayodhya) officials and a few trust members would attend the meeting,” the official told The Telegraph on the condition of anonymity. “However, the trust members were told in the morning that a separate meeting would soon be held in Delhi with them.”
Anil Mishra, a trust member, told local reporters that the meeting was about the “Ayodhya Vision” — a development plan — and not on the Ram temple, and the trust had never been invited to it.
“The state and the central government have a plan to develop the town as a heritage city. The trust’s job is limited to building the Ram temple and related issues,” Mishra said.
However, the Ayodhya Vision is a 30-year plan to develop the town for religious tourism, with the Ram temple at the heart of it.
Adityanath and his deputies Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma attended the meeting, titled Ayodhya Vision 2051, from Lucknow.
The trust, which has collected donations from people across India, has recently been embroiled in controversy over its purchase of land. In at least two deals, the trust bought plots at far higher prices than they had been sold for just minutes or a few months earlier. It denies any wrongdoing.
On Friday, a meeting of 150 of Ayodhya’s sadhus had demanded that at Saturday’s meeting, Modi should clarify how the dubious land deals were struck “under his nose”, senior sadhus had told reporters.
At the time, the widespread impression was that trust members would be part of Modi’s meeting.
The media was not allowed to attend or view Saturday’s meeting.
A tweet by Modi and a central government media release on the meeting did not mention the temple or the trust.
“Chaired a meeting on the Ayodhya development plan. Emphasised on public participation and involving our Yuva Shakti in creating state-of-the-art infrastructure in Ayodhya, making this city a vibrant mix of the ancient and modern,” Modi tweeted.
Chaired a meeting on the Ayodhya development plan. Emphasised on public participation and involving our Yuva Shakti in creating state-of-the-art infrastructure in Ayodhya, making this city a vibrant mix of the ancient and modern. https://t.co/VIX5IQRFC1— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 26, 2021
The government release said Ayodhya would be developed “as a spiritual centre, global tourism hub and a sustainable smart city”.
An official in Lucknow quoted the Prime Minister as telling the meeting that the major development projects in Ayodhya should be completed in the “next two-three years” before the Ram temple was built and opened to the people.
The general wisdom is that the BJP plans to have the temple built before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
“He (Modi) said the major projects should be completed within two-three years. The minor projects can continue.... He also said that tradition and culture should be highlighted in every project,” the official said.
The Rs 20,000-crore Ayodhya Vision includes Rs 14,000 crore to be spent by the state government to upgrade the town’s small airport and build or expand bus stands, cultural and heritage centres, museums to portray Ram’s life and roads to link the town with other parts of the country.
The central government release said the plan included “an upcoming greenfield township (with) lodging facilities for devotees, space for ashrams, maths, hotels, bhavans of various states” and “a tourist facilitation centre, a world-class museum” along with river cruises on the Saryu.