Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who arrived in Uttar Pradesh for the first time since he was sworn in as the chief minister, will visit Ayodhya on Sunday. As a show of support, thousands of Shiv Sainiks too will converge at the holy town.
Besides Shinde and Shiv Sena MPs and MLAs, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will also arrive in Ayodhya on Sunday.
"This is not a political visit. I keep visiting Ayodhya but this is the first time I have come here as the chief minister. All our party leaders wanted to take the blessings of Lord Ram. I want to thank Yogi-ji and his ministers who were here to welcome us," Shinde told ANI.
Shinde and other Shiv Sena leaders arrived in Lucknow on Saturday and were welcomed by his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath at the Lucknow airport.
He will reach Ayodhya by helicopter and land at the banks of the Saryu river on Sunday morning. "The Maharashtra chief minister will be arriving in Lucknow on Saturday and will visit Ayodhya on Sunday, where he will offer prayers at the Hanumangarhi temple and the Ram temple. He will also see the ongoing construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple and perform the evening 'aarti' on the banks of the Saryu river," Maharashtra Chief Minister's spokesperson Viraj Mulaye told PTI.
Shinde will also meet the seers of Ayodhya and address a press conference. He will return to Mumbai the same day after spending about nine hours in the temple town.
Besides Shinde and Shiv Sena leaders, thousands of Shiv Sainiks will also converge in Ayodhya today. A train carrying over 1,200 supporters and Ram devotees departed from Thane on Friday.
The special train was beautifully decorated with a 'Chalo Ayodhya' board mounted in the front. Another train carrying Shiv Sainiks left for Ayodhya from Nashik, Shinde told reporters.
The party spokesperson added that over 3,000 devotees have left for the temple town in these two trains.
On arrival at Ayodhya, the workers put up big banners welcoming Shinde to Ayodhya.
Before his departure to Lucknow, Shinde had said that he wanted to go to Ayodhya after getting the Bow and Arrow symbol. "We will be going to Ayodhya to seek Lord Ram's blessings on April 9. The call of faith and belief prompted us to undertake this visit. We will perform the Aarti. I still remember that Dharmveer Anand Dhigana (Anand Dighe, who the Maharashtra CM considers his mentor) had sent a Karsevak to Ayodhya with a silver brick. So, we have old bonding with Ram Lalla and will be visiting the temple also."
As thousands of Shiv Sainiks will throng the holy town today, almost all hotels, guest houses and dharamshalas in the temple town have been fully booked to accommodate them.
Earlier, Shinde had visited Ayodhya as a Shiv Sena leader on November 25, 2018, a year before the Supreme Court announced the verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute.
He also visited Ayodhya in March 2020 and June last year.