Rajat Sharma


akb The first golden gate (Swarna Dwar) of the majestic Ram Janmasthan Temple in Ayodhya was installed on Tuesday. As many as 13 such golden gates, including the gate of the sanctum sanctorum, will be installed in the next three days. Work is going on at a feverish pace for the Pran Prathista (consecration) of Ram idol in the temple on January 22. The consecration rites will be performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has declared January 22 a holiday in all educational institutions of Uttar Pradesh. No liquor shop or fish or meat shop will be allowed to remain open on that day. All government buildings will be decorated on that day for the festive occasion, which Yogi termed as “Ramotsav”. The chief minister went to Ayodhya on Tuesday to supervise all arrangements being made for the consecration ceremony. Yogi will lead the Swachchata (cleanliness) drive in Ayodhya personally from January 14. Orders have been issued for verification of all outsiders visiting Ayodhya as a precautionary measure. A health centre, equipped with ambulances, will be opened in the tent city coming up in the town. Meanwhile, there has been a flurry of comments about Ram temple, mainly from INDIA opposition bloc constituent parties. On Wednesday, the Congress party announced that party president Mallikarjun Kharge, former president Sonia Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury will not attend the ceremony because “the inauguration of the incomplete temple by leaders of BJP and RSS has obviously been brought forward for electoral gain.” Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said on Tuesday that he would visit Ayodhya only “at the call of Bhagwan Ram”. He said, ‘for me, Bhagwan Ram is PDA’ (picchde(backward), Dalit, Adivasi). A huge billboard has been placed outside the Samajwadi Party head office in Lucknow extolling Lord Ram. The bill board reads: ‘Aa Rahe Hain Hamare Aaradhya, Prabhu Shri Ram”(Lord Shri Ram Is Coming). In Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described the consecration ceremony as “a political gimmick by BJP”. She said, “BJP is doing this (consecration) only after the Supreme Court gave its verdict, but actually it is a gimmick show before the Lok Sabha elections….Religion is a personal matter, but festivals are meant for all. I believe that festivals are held to bring people together, but they are doing this for election gimmicks..But you cannot overlook the needs of people from other communities.” NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said he has not received any invitation for the ceremony, but he would prefer to avoid crowds and visit the temple anytime during the next 2-3 years. Congress leader Kamal Nath said, “Ram temple belongs to everyone, some people want to take credit for this, but the temple has been built only after the Supreme Court gave its verdict. BJP does not own the ‘patta’ (land lease) for Ram temple. The nation owns the temple, everyone has a right on Ram Mandir”. Former Rajasthan CM and Congress leader Ashok Gehlot said, “Nobody, not even PM Modi, is giving any credit to Rajasthan government which made a huge contribution in building the Ram temple. We sent stones for building the temple. Whether Modi invites me or not, I will definitely visit the temple, but it is my choice when I will go.” In Bihar, some JD-U and RJD leaders have made controversial remarks. A day after an RJD MLA expressed apprehension that BJP can carry out a blast in Ayodhya on January 22, another JD-U MLA Gopal Mandal named Modi and said, “Modi has been doing such things in the past. It was BJP which carried out the blast at Modi’s rally in Patna in October 2013.” The fact is, Modi became Prime Minister in May, 2014. There are two main aspects relating to the Ayodhya Ram temple. One, the first aspect relates to the faith of millions of Indians in Lord Ram and they had been waiting for the temple to be built at Ram Janmasthan since the last 500 years. Had Narendra Modi as PM not evinced interest in ensuring that the temple was built at a fast speed, the temple could not have come up in such a short time. Narendra Modi has put in his full energy to make the consecration ceremony a grand event. Vishwa Hindu Parishad has tried to link the common Indian with this event. VHP workers have been visiting homes of people in towns and villages asking them to celebrate the consecration ceremony on January 22 by lighting lamps. BJP has included the Ram Temple Pran Pratistha event as part of its nationwide outreach campaign ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. Two, the second aspect relates to the main opposition bloc. Its leaders are in a state of confusion on whether to attend the ceremony or not, whether to praise the construction of Ram temple or not. Different leaders have varied opinions. Some opposition parties fear that they may lost support from their Muslim vote banks if their leaders attend the ceremony. This has led to their leaders making funny remarks. Some other opposition parties feel that if Ram temple becomes the main election issue, then the BJP may reap rich dividends. These parties are questioning the political use of a religious event. Probably, these parties do not know that the series of functions relating to Lord Ram will not end on January 22. In the forthcoming months, millions of people will be taken to Ayodhya to have ‘darshan’ of Ram Lalla idol from each state. BJP had given ‘guarantee’ to voters in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to conduct Ayodhya tour for Ram devotees. By the time the campaign for Lok Sabha elections will heat up, Ayodhya will be celebrating Ramnavami with pomp and grandeur. All these developments can cause big worries for INDIA alliance. Right now, the alliance is more worried about seat sharing in different key states, and Congress is trying to hard to save the alliance.

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