Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma’s visit to Ayodhya to inspect the site of central government project to build a Ramayana Museum kicked up a row with the opposition parties accusing him of milking the issue ahead of the assembly elections in the state.
Sharma announced his visit on twitter on Monday. “My visit to Ayodhya has nothing to do with UP assembly elections. It should not be linked to politics but is part of government's effort to improve tourism in Ayodhya and all over the country. The visit is part of government's developmental agenda," he had said.
Before making inspection of the proposed site, Sharma visited the makeshift Ram temple at the disputed site. He also took views of Ramjanmabhoomi Trust head Nritya Gopal Das in building the museum. Sharma said he was honoured to work for RamLala.
"This was the first time that people were getting opportunity to work for Ram. Our government will make efforts to take the message of Ram, the Ramayana to the world. The museum will help in taking the message to the world and boost tourism," Sharma said on Tuesday.
But, the timing of the visit was enough to spark off a debate. First salvo came from within the BJP as its Rajya Sabha MP and ardent Ram temple campaigner Vinay Katiyar said that Hindus would be satisfied with nothing less than a beautiful and grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya. He termed government’s move to build a Ramayana museum merely a ''lollipop''.
Kaityar’s comments were aimed at further escalating demands for the construction of the temple. Though, the issue of building Ram temple has yet to become a poll issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set off a debate last week by raising chants of Jai Sri Ram at a Dussehra rally in Lucknow. The chant was used as a war cry during the Ram Janambhoomi movement.
Interestingly, fearing a polarisation on the issue, the Samajwadi Party government in the state has announced setting up of an international Ram Lila theme park along the banks of the Sarayu in Ayodhya.
The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow. Reports quoted a government spokesperson as saying, “The completion of the project will benefit tourism, generate employment opportunities and promote Indian culture nationally as well as globally.”
While Congress accused the BJP of remembering Lord Ram during elections, BSP supremo Mayawati hit out at the BJP and the SP for raking the issue ahead of elections.