Ayodhya is all set to be the focal point of BJP’s campaign for 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The 2024 elections are perfectly timed with the completion of the grand Ram temple and the various developmental projects earmarked for the holy city will also be near completion by then.
Ayodhya, therefore, will be the perfect showcase of BJP’s achievement — both in spiritual and developmental terms.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has already positioned himself as a torch-bearer of Hindutva, will undoubtedly tout Ayodhya as a major achievement.
“Ayodhya will have the much-promised temple by the time general elections are held. Yogi Adityanath is pushing all developmental projects hard and this will present a new Ayodhya to the people. Without doubt, this will be our biggest and best report card for the 2024 elections,” said a senior BJP functionary.
There is no doubt that with a highly fragmented opposition, Modi’s continuing charisma and Yogi Adityanath’s Hindutva pull, the focus on Ayodhya will only add to the BJP’s strength in the general elections.
According to a senior official, Yogi Adityanath has visited Ayodhya innumerable times during the past five and a half years and is completely clued in with the progress of development in the holy city.
It is noteworthy that previous chief ministers, including Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have avoided visiting Ram temple because they feared that this would send a wrong message to their non-Hindu voters.
A senior official in the chief minister’s secretariat said, “Yogi Adityanath takes keen personal interest in matters related to Ayodhya. The annual ‘Deepotsav’ event has got bigger with every passing year and the renovation of Ghats has given an ethereal look to Ayodhya. He reviews the development work in Ayodhya at regular intervals and does not take excuses for lapses.”
Yogi Adityanath’s deep connect with Ayodhya is understandable.
Located 137 kilometres east of Ayodhya, the Gorakhnath Math in Gorakhpur — now headed by Yogi Adityanath — has been at the centre of the Ram temple movement since British rule. It played a pivotal role in the Ayodhya movement under three mahants — Digvijay Nath, Avaidyanath and Yogi Adityanath.
Digvijay Nath, who became mahant in 1935 not only made the mutt a centre of right-wing political activities, but also became a leading light of the temple movement.
After joining the Hindu Mahasabha in 1937, he started mobilising the Hindu community for the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
On the intervening night of December 22-23, 1949, when Ram idol was placed in the then disputed structure, Digvijay Nath was present in Ayodhya. He motivated volunteers to start prayers.
Till his death in 1969, Digvijay Nath gave the momentum to the Ram temple movement.
The next mahant, Avaidyanath, continued the movement for the Ram temple. In 1984, he constituted the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Mukti Yagya Samiti to bring all the Hindu organisations and sadhus associated with the Ram temple movement on a single platform.
As a disciple of Avaidyanath, Yogi Adityanath started participating in meetings of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Mukti Yagya Samiti headed by his guru.
The task to organise the meetings was entrusted to the young Adityanath who proved his mettle by inviting the sadhus, heads of various Hindu religious orders and scholars from across the country.
Contentious issues like construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, uniform civil code, ban on cow slaughter and anti- conversion campaign topped the agenda of these meetings organised in east Uttar Pradesh.
Yogi Adityanath kept the temple issue alive in east UP by organising Vishwa Hindu Mahasammelan and Virat Hindu Sangam in Gorakhpur and the adjoining districts.
After being appointed chief minister on March 19, 2017, Yogi Adityanath declared Ayodhya a municipal corporation, changed the name of Faizabad to Ayodhya and launched projects to promote tourism and amenities for pilgrims.
With the ‘Deepotsav’ programme in October 2017, Yogi Adityanath made it clear that Ayodhya would remain on the top of his political agenda.
The BJP, at the national level, does not promote the Hindu agenda in a blatant manner but Yogi Adityanath makes no bones about his Hindu leanings and it is this that endears him to his voters. He is pushing Ayodhya to the centre stage of politics.