In Ayodhya, Yogi Adityanath Offers Prayers At Makeshift Ram Temple

This is the 46-year-old Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's first Ayodhya visit since he took oath in March.


Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is in Ayodhya, his first after taking charge in UP

Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh:  Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath drove first to the Hanuman Garhi temple in Ayodhya this morning before offering prayers at the makeshift Ram temple at the disputed Ram Janmbhoomi - Babri Masjid site.

Huge crowds of pilgrims and local people shouted slogans of "Jai Sri Ram" to greet the Chief Minister in Ayodhya.

This is the 46-year-old Chief Minister's first Ayodhya visit since he took oath in March. It comes just a day after senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and union Minister Uma Bharti were charged by a Lucknow court with conspiracy to demolish the 16th century Babri mosque in 1992.

The timing of the visit has added to speculation on whether the Ram temple agenda, pushed to the backburner by the BJP for years amid a court battle, is being brought back by the party with an eye on the 2019 national election. It hopes to replicate its unprecedented feat in the last election of winning 71 of the state's 80 parliament seats. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek a second term in 2019 and UP will be crucial.

On Tuesday Yogi Adityanath was waiting with flowers to greet Mr Advani and other BJP leaders as they arrived at a Lucknow guest house on Tuesday morning and held a meeting with them before they left to appear in court. The BJP, which now rules both at the Centre and in UP after its massive sweep of the assembly elections in the state in March this year, has defended its leaders saying they "are innocent and will come out unscathed".

"I see no politics in the Chief Minister's visit. He had come here earlier too when he was not CM. ... as far as the Babri case goes you are well aware of the sentiments of the Hindu community in Ayodhya town that a Ram temple should be built here," said Mahant Raju Das, a priest who has served at the Hanuman Garhi temple, the second most famous religious site in Ayodhya, since he was four years old. He is 44 now.

BJP lawmaker Sakshi Maharaj said on Tuesday, "No power on earth will be able to stop the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya." He was at the Lucknow court to greet Mr Advani, who had led a movement in 1990 for a temple to be built at the same spot where the Babri mosque was constructed by the Mughals. Many Hindus believe that the mosque was built over the birthplace of Lord Ram. The Supreme Court is deciding who the dispute site belongs to.

Yogi Adityanath has for many years been considered a Hindutva symbol of the BJP and his poll campaigns have consistently held the promise of the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

But BJP sources in Lucknow denied any link between Tuesday's appearance in court of the party leaders and the Chief Minister's visit to Ayodhya on Wednesday. His programme, they argued, was arranged earlier.

Yogi Adityanath will also attend birthday celebrations of Mahant Nritya Gopal Das of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, who too is accused of conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case. The Nyas is a trust formed to promote and oversee the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Apart from the visit to the temples, the Chief Minister has in a packed morning also inspected the condition of Saryu river and performed aarti there.

The Chief Minister is expected to address BJP workers and attend a law and order meeting before returning to Lucknow later this evening.

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