- There should be talks for Ram temple construction, said Yogi Adityanath
- He was on his first Ayodhya visit after becoming chief minister
- He prayed at the makeshift Ram temple and other temples
"We respect your feelings. There should be talks for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Many Muslim organisations in Lucknow have talked of handing over Ram Janmbhoomi to the Hindus," the Chief Minister said. He was on his first visit to Ayodhya after he took oath in March, and spent the day there visiting temples, including the makeshift Ram temple at the disputed site and promising better development of the town with an investment of Rs 300 crore, for which he gave credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Yogi Adityanath was greeted in Ayodhya with chants of "Jai Shri Ram" and said, "Whenever one visits Ayodhya Dham, one can't stop oneself from chanting Ram's name." He was there, he said, to attend birthday celebrations for Mahant Nritya Gopal Das of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a trust formed to promote and oversee the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The 46-year-old priest-politician's visit came 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 masjid. The mosque was razed in December 1992 by kar sevaks or volunteers, who wanted a Ram temple built at the spot. Many Hindus believe that the mosque was built by the Mughals over the birthplace of Lord Ram.
The timing of Yogi Adityanath's 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.
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.
"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. Yogi Adityanath visited Hanuman Garhi before he offered prayers at the makeshift Ram temple.