Ram statue, eye on 2019

BJP bid to mollify voters unhappy waiting for temple

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 13.10.17

Lucknow, Oct. 12: The BJP appears set to promise its core vote bank a Ram statue in Ayodhya rather than immediate construction of a Ram temple as part of its 2019 general election campaign.

Awanish Awasthi, principal secretary in the Uttar Pradesh tourism department, yesterday acknowledged the plan for a Ram statue, telling reporters: "We have received such a proposal but a final decision is yet to be taken."

Other government sources said the Ayodhya Nagar Nigam had forwarded the proposal to the tourism department after a series of meetings with the personal staff of chief minister Yogi Adityanath in August and September.

They said the statue would be 551 feet tall and come up on the Saryu's banks.

"This has been planned on the basis of feedback from BJP cadres, who have expressed annoyance at the delay in resolving the Ram temple dispute," an official told The Telegraph.

The title suit relating to the disputed site in Ayodhya where Ram is supposed to have been born and where the Babri Masjid once stood is pending in the Supreme Court.

Ever since a mob of zealots demolished the mosque in December 1992, the BJP has been promising a "magnificent" Ram temple at the site virtually before every parliamentary and Uttar Pradesh election.

Some Sangh parivar leaders have kept the issue alive, regularly suggesting the possibility of an out-of-court settlement of the title suit, or of Parliament enacting a law to pave the way for the temple.

Political analysts believe that the proposed Ram statue is a ploy to appease the parivar cadres, who are mounting pressure for the construction of a temple now that the BJP is in power both at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh.

Adityanath has intensified his activities in Ayodhya, 150km east of Lucknow, in the run-up to the official announcement of the plan to build the statue. He will be in the temple town on October 18, the day before Diwali (called Chhoti Diwali), to lay the foundation stones for Rs 134-crore worth of projects at an event organised at the Ram Katha Park.

The projects include the construction of a multi-purpose hall at the Digambari Akhara and the beautification of Ram Ki Paudi, a site on the Saryu's banks where Ram is said to have often bathed.

Sources said that Adityanath, who heads the Gorakhnath Math in adjoining Gorakhpur district, will also lead a religious procession in Ayodhya on Chhoti Diwali with a tableau on the life of Ram. Elephants and horses will be part of the march, sources said.

Awasthi, the tourism department official, was in Ayodhya on Tuesday to review the arrangements.

Allahabad High Court had in 2010 divided the 2.77-acre disputed plot in Ayodhya equally between the Nirmohi Akhara, Sunni Central Waqf Board and Ram Lalla Birajman (infant Ram), represented by Vishwa Hindi Parishad leader Triloki Nath Pandey.

All three parties have challenged the order in the apex court, seeking possession of the entire plot.

The BJP government in Gujarat had proposed a similar project in the run-up to the 2014 general election, announcing it would erect a statue to Vallabhbhai Patel in Vadodara. The statue, which is to be 597 feet tall, is under construction.