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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Is Babri Masjid still a key factor for Uttar Pradesh elections?
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Is Babri Masjid still a key factor for Uttar Pradesh elections?

In the run-up to the upcoming elections in the state, almost all major political parties have made Ayodhya a part of their campaign

A file photo the Babri Masjid. Photo: HTPremium
A file photo the Babri Masjid. Photo: HT

New Delhi: Twenty-four years after the disputed Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya, it continues to be a key political factor in Uttar Pradesh. In the run-up to the upcoming elections in the state, almost all major political parties have made Ayodhya a part of their campaign.

The first glimpse of the political relevance of Ayodhya became visible when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited Hanuman Garhi temple on 9 September as part of the party’s state-wide election campaign. Although Gandhi skipped a visit to the Ram temple at the disputed Ramjanmbhoomi-Babri Masjid site, he is the first member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to have visited Ayodhya since the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.

Competitive politics has also started between the Samajwadi Party (SP)-led state government and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government over the issue. SP announced in October that an international Ramleela theme park will be constructed on the banks of Sarayu river in Ayodhya. The news came in just a day after the Centre announced that a Ramayan Museum will be constructed in the temple town.

“The Uttar Pradesh election will be a tight three-cornered contest between SP, BJP and BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party). In this scenario, even a margin of 1-2% can make or break a party’s fortune. Therefore, all parties need to keep their core support base together and this is an attempt in that direction. The BJP, for instance, is appealing to its upper caste Hindu vote, while SP is trying to appease the non-Yadav other backward class (OBC), who have been sympathetic to the larger cause of Hindutva," said Sanjay Kumar, director of New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

However, Kumar said that it might be a catch-22 situation for SP which is trying to consolidate the non-Yadav OBC vote at the cost of the Muslim vote which played a crucial role in bringing SP back to power in 2012.

“This issue did not surface in the past two-three elections in UP, but political parties might think differently and rake up the issue now," he added.

BJP leaders have maintained that construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site will not be made an election issue. They argue that after the demonetisation policy of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi has changed the entire focus of the election from caste and religion to corruption and the menace of black money accumulation.

“There is no doubt that BJP as a party is committed to the issue of Ram Temple, but time and again party leaders have elaborated that this is not an election issue. The issue is with the Supreme Court so we will wait for the court’s judgment. Anti-corruption, black money, fake currency and terror funding will be the main focus of the party in the state polls along with the larger message of development," said a senior BJP leader, who is part of the campaign strategy.

Towing a similar line, SP said that the issue was being misinterpreted.

“It is not just about Ram. SP has started work on a Mughal museum in Agra while a Mughal-e-Azam based theme park has been proposed in Etawah. All this goes on to say that our party does not want to play communal politics but serve the people," said a Lucknow-based SP leader, who did not wish to be named.

The Congress party too called Gandhi’s Ayodhya visit a matter of personal faith and belief which should not be seen only as an election issue. “Yes, we are reaching out to all sections of the society but one shouldn’t equate the visit with political gains," said a senior Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh, on the condition of anonymity.

Security of the disputed structure is also of prime importance as the state leaves nothing to chance, especially on the said date, every year. While the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) guards the area, it has deployed six companies and the state police too is involved to curb any protest.

“We have set up check points, the riot police is in place and all arrangements have been made to keep water cannons and other crowd control equipment in place," said Anant Deo, senior superintendent of police (Faizabad), UP Police.

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Published: 06 Dec 2016, 11:59 AM IST
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