With 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls less than five months away, the Ayodhya Ram Temple
issue has already started to gain prominence and the major political parties in fray playing up their cards.
Union tourism minister Mahesh Sharma
on Monday visited the temple town and held confabulations with the district officials, seers and local leaders in connection with the central government plans to develop a grand 'international museum and research centre' dedicated to Lord Ram and events narrated in the Hindu holy text of Ramayan.
Talking to media persons, Sharma said the project was part of the ongoing plan to boost tourism in the country through such initiatives and had nothing to do with polls. He further said he was in town as a union minister and not in capacity of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader or parliamentarian.
However, the opposition has already started to raise question on the move claiming it was a well thought out plan to invoke the emotive Ram Temple
issue with elections due in early 2017.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is BJP's biggest mascot, had flown down to Lucknow on October 11 to witness the staging of historical 'Ram Lila' at the Aishbagh Ground in Lucknow on the occasion of Dussehra. Modi had concluded his short speech by invoking Lord Ram through multiple chants.
Besides, the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) government had yesterday cleared a proposal to use high grade sandstone for the under-construction of Theme Park in the Ayodhya
International Ramlila Complex. The government maintained it was aimed at providing more amenities to tourists and creating new job opportunities, while at the same time propagate the country's culture and heritage.
On its part, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, during his month long 'Kisan Yatra' last month, had visited Ayodhya
on September 9 and paid obeisance at the Hanuman Garhi temple. This was the first time after the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya
in 1992 that a member of his family chose to visit the temple town.
His visit was seen as toeing a soft 'Hindutva' line by Congress to counter BJP and attract upper castes votes in UP, where the party has been away from power for the last 27 years.
Congress has projected former Delhi chief minister (CM) Sheila Dikshit as the party's CM candidate to attract Brahmin voters, which have over the years moved away from the party towards BJP and even Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
While, BSP is unlikely to make any direct reference to Ayodhya
or Ram temple, the party is believed to be considering giving a good proportion of party tickets to leaders from the forward castes.