Not just Ram Mandir, development also a big talking point in Ayodhya
If the Congress candidate threatens to hurt the SP-BSP alliance’s chances by cutting into Muslim votes, BJP too faces threat from a Shiv Sena candidate.
“This is Lord Ram's Nagri; there is only BJP here. Ram Mandir may not be a reality yet, but development surely is,” said Devki Nandan, whose family has been running a peda-lassi shop for generations here.
Ayodhya comes under Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency where there is a unique four-cornered contest this time. If the Congress candidate threatens to hurt the SP-BSP alliance's chances by cutting into Muslim votes, BJP too faces threat from a Shiv Sena candidate.
And Ram Mandir is not the only talking point here; development of the holy city under the Yogi Adityanath rule and stray cattle problem, too, are hot topics. have emerged key issues in the constituency have emerged as big talking points along with terror attacks and national security. At Naya Ghat, a new attraction in the city, a giant hoarding of Modi promising he won't let the country's down is placed next to Lord Hanuman's life-like model.
Ram Mandir and Patience
“Prabhu Ram ji ki dharti se, Jai Shri Ram,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi called out thrice at a rally in Rampur Maya in Ayodhya on Wednesday. But he did not say more on Ram Mandir during his 25-minute speech and he did not visit any temple, causing some disappointment among some locals.
On the ground, the Ram Temple does not seem to be an overwhelming issue, with some saying Modi has done his bit by asking the Supreme Court to transfer back land to the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas and government trying to speed up the court process.
The SC had in March referred the Ayodhya title dispute to mediation and that process is on.
Shiv Sena, a BJP ally at the Centre, however, is trying to stir up passion with its candidate Mahesh Tiwari questioning Modi on avoiding visiting the Ram Lalla for the last five years.
Development Vs Stray cattle
Sitting MP and BJP candidate Lallu Singh said the Central and state governments will make the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, “have patience”. “Till that happens, Modi and Yogi are transforming Ayodhya with development,” he said, and cites a flurry of projects including a new medical college and the proposed ‘Jai Sri Ram Airport’ in the holy city.
Congress candidate Nirmal Khatri, however, alleges that BJP is trying to divert attention from key issues such as unemployment and stray cattle. “Where is the new Industry here? No jobs were created,” he said. SP’s Anand Sen Yadav, too, talks about the same issues.
BJP’s Singh, however, said tourism has emerged a huge job creator, pointing out that 1.92 crore tourists visited Ayodhya in 2018, up from 1.75 crore in 2017 and 1.55 crore in 2016, all due to the development brought by the BJP government.
The main contest seems between BJP's Lallu Singh and SP's Anand Sen. BJP is hoping that in a multi-cornered contest, Congress will eat into Muslim votes that would have otherwise gone en-masse to the SP-BSP alliance. And it’s raising the polarisation pitch in Ayodhya. “If people vote for Modi, he will put tricolour on the moon; but if people vote for Rahul Gandhi, he may add a star and a crescent to the tricolour,” said BJP MLA from Milkipur Baba Gorakhnath.
The real test for BJP here is perhaps to show that it still retains its grip over its Hindutva base, where Sena is challenging it. But most locals are still with Modi, it seems. “I think Modi wants to come to the Ram Lalla make-shift temple only when he can start the construction of the grand temple,” said Devki Nandan the peda seller at Hanumangarhi. “The fact is that the candidate does not matter…it is not Lallu Singh but Modi who is fighting from Ayodhya.”