Desperate BJP plays Ayodhya card in last round

By Sharat Pradhan


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Ayodhya : A visibly desperate Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken recourse to playing up the Ayodhya temple card for the crucial last round of the seven-phase Uttar Pradesh assembly elections ending Tuesday.

Even as top BJP leaders all along shunned even a mention of Ayodhya at most of their meetings across the length and breadth of the state, they did not hesitate to make emotive appeals to the electorate in the name of the proposed Ram temple here in the final phase of campaigning that concluded Sunday evening.

What appears to have prompted them to do so was the fact that the fate of the Ayodhya assembly seat is to be decided in this phase.

A revolt by the party's saffron-clad Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath also seems to have led BJP bigwigs to raise the Ayodhya issue with a view to diluting his overriding 'Hindutva' influence in large parts of this area.

While BJP bigwigs claim to have pacified the Yogi, it was amply evident that he was still sore about his nominees being denied party ticket and had clearly not put his heart and soul into the campaign.

Even though BJP had at the last assembly election of 2002 bagged only 11 of the 59 seats in this belt, the BJP leadership has pumped in much of their energies here – obviously to ensure that it is able to retain its old tally at least.

The BJP bid began with former chief minister Kalyan Singh's veiled anti-Muslim vitriolic in many places in and around Gorakhpur including Ayodhya.

It touched the peak on the last day of the campaign Sunday when former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani went to the extent of telling a rally in Ayodhya's twin city Faizabad that "no Hindu should be sitting in peace until his long cherished dream of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya gets fulfilled".

And when his supporters raised their usual cries of "Jai Shree Ram", Advani declared: "I will raise this slogan at a real high pitch only after the Ram temple is built."

Ironically, however, he said in the same vein: "Ram Mandir is not an election issue for us."

Yet, he did not hesitate to suggest that there could be only three possible solutions to the Ayodhya tangle.

"Either by court or by means of a special legislation or else through an amicable settlement," Advani said.

"I consider the last option as the most viable one," he said. "And it was in that light that I would like to make an appeal to Muslims to come forward with their positive gesture towards bringing the Ram temple issue to its logical conclusion."

The leaders have also made no bones about the fact that winning the Ayodhya seat now for the fifth time in succession was extremely crucial to the party, which has used the temple as its virtual mascot for nearly two decades.

Significantly, all along in his speeches towards the fag end of the campaign in different parts of the nine districts of Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Deoria, Mau, Azamgarh and Ballia, Advani was insistent on clarifying that BJP was "not anti-Muslim".

And to substantiate his claim, he cites the example of BJP initiating the name of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for presidency. "If we were anti-Muslim, we would not have initiated Kalam's nomination."