- Opposition says divisive ploy to divert attention from governance issues
- Yogi Adityanath says visited Ayodhya to check security arrangements
- Mr Adityanath says no one has the right to question his faith
"This is my personal faith and how can opposition interfere in this?" said Yogi Adityanath, who had led yesterday's celebrations. The saffron-robed Chief Minister is also the head of Gorakhpur's Gorakhnath temple, one of the key shrines in the state.
Yogi Adityanath also said his other reason for visiting Ayodhya was to check the preparations and security arrangements for the thousands of devotees who are expected to visit the temple town on Diwali. "As the Chief Minister of the state, it is my duty and I am committed towards development of every place of the state," he said.
The three-day "Deepotsav" celebrations were launched on a mega scale, with the Chief Minister welcoming actors playing the Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman, amid a record 1.75 lakh "diya" or lamps.
The actors, who were to portray the mythical homecoming of Lord Ram -- on which Diwali is centred -- had arrived on a chopper and proceeded to the pink-lit banks of river Sarayu. The stage where the programe was held was built near the site where a mosque built by Mughal Emperor Babar once stood.
The mosque had been razed in December 1992 by pro-Hindu activists who believed it had been built on the ruins of a temple that marked the birthplace of Lord Ram, triggering one of the most divisive rows in recent times. Critics had speculated that the event provides for great optics for any strategy to consolidate the Hindu vote ahead of the 2019 national election.
The opposition Congress had responded reacted with barbs.
"It is a good thing that such huge numbers of earthen lamps were lit... I hope the Chief Minister also invited Muslims from all across the nation to these celebrations," senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid had said.