Culture Minister’s Ayodhya visit reignites Ram Mandir row (Roundup)

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New Delhi, Oct 17 (IANS) Union Minister Mahesh Sharma’s proposed visit to inspect the site for the proposed Ramayana Museum in Ayodhya reignited the political row on Monday as the opposition accused the BJP of raking up the Ram Mandir issue ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.

The row erupted on a day the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh decided to construct a Ramleela Theme Park, also in Ayodhya.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati criticised both the BJP-led central government and the Samajwadi Party’s Uttar Pradesh government and said the decisions were taken only for electoral gains.

“The decision to build a Ramayana Museum and Ramleela Theme Park in Ayodhya by the BJP and the SP respectively just before the assembly elections shows their intentions,” the BSP chief said in a statement.

She said these promises would remain unfulfilled due to lack of budgetary support.

“Attempts at taking political mileage by linking religion with politics is condemnable. And if their intentions were good, these projects would have started earlier,” Mayawati said.

Mayawati criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “remembering” Ayodhya just before the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.

“It is good to develop Ayodhya from tourism point of view,” she added.

Taking a dig at the SP-led state government, Mayawati said, “They are following BJP these days; that’s why they have announced to build Ramleela Theme Park now.”

The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet on Monday approved the use of red sandstone at the under-construction Ramleela Theme Park in Ayodhya.

An official statement said the project would help generate jobs and in the spread of Indian culture and tradition worldwide.

Mayawati also cautioned the central and the state governments to take precautions as matters relating to the Ramjanambhoomi and Babri Masjid cases are still pending before the Allahabad High Court.

“There is a trend of inaugurating incomplete projects in the state by the central and the state governments, which is just a theatrics to befool the voters,” Mayawati alleged.

The former Chief Minister said both the governments have a “habit to indulge in cheap politics, which was earlier used by Congress”.

The Congress also took on the Bharatiya Janata Party, saying it brings up the Ram mandir issue whenever elections come.

“They don’t have faith (astha) in anything. After joining hands with the Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir, they are silent on Article 370. On the Uniform Civil Code too, the kind of statements the BJP gives, it doesn’t seem they have faith in it also,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewary said.

“On Ram Mandir, they have no faith at all. From 1992 till today, they remember Lord Ram only when elections come,” he added.

Sharma, the Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, however, clarified that the construction of the museum had nothing to do with the state elections.

“My visit to Ayodhya has nothing to do with assembly elections. I am visiting there as a Tourism Minister. It should not be linked to politics. It is part of the government’s effort to improve tourism in Ayodhya and all over the country. The visit is part of the government’s developmental agenda,” Sharma told news channel News18.

Sharma, who is also expected to visit the disputed temple site, said the museum will be part of the Ramayana circuit, for which the Centre has sanctioned Rs 225 crore, with Rs 151 crore exclusively for Ayodhya, which is the hub of the circuit.

“(Lord) Ram is in the heart of millions of people. As the Tourism Minister, I have to see how Ayodhya can be developed and how Ramayana circuit can be developed from tourism point of view,” the minister said.

During his visit, Sharma is likely to hold a meeting with Ramayana Circuit Advisory Board to discuss routes for connecting Ramayana-related sites in Nepal and Sri Lanka with the proposed museum.

Meanwhile, BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Vinay Katiyar urged the Union government to take steps for the construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.

“Every Ram bhakt wants the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya and until it is constructed, we are not going to sit peacefully,” Katiyar told News18.

“It is up to the government to find a way out, either through talks or court or Parliament,” the BJP leader said.



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