Big Crowds As AAP Makes "Nationalism" Pitch In Ayodhya Before UP Election

Earlier this month AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said the party would contest all 403 seats and expose the BJP's "fake nationalism"

UP will vote for a new government in 2022, with the AAP among those challenging the BJP (File)

Lucknow:

Promises of "real nationalism" and, for the first time, "Ram Rajya" - both issues championed by the ruling BJP - marked the Aam Aadmi Party's formal start to campaigning in Uttar Pradesh for the 2022 election.

Large crowds turned up at a tiranga, or flag, rally in UP's Faizabad, the 'twin town' to Ayodhya and where the Ram Temple is being built. The rally was led by Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh.

"We got an opportunity to visit the Ram Janmabhoomi and met many saints who wished for our victory. We prayed for the AAP to get an opportunity to form the government in UP," Mr Sisodia told reporters on Tuesday before the start of the rally.

"We will form a government that will govern on ideals given by Lord Ram," he said.

On Monday both leaders visited multiple temples in Ayodhya, including the site of the under-construction Ram Temple and the Hanumangarhi temple.

The symbolism of the AAP starting their UP campaign from Ayodhya is clear.

Earlier this month Mr Singh declared his party would contest all 403 seats and, in doing so, expose the BJP's "fake nationalism" and showcase its "real nationalism".

"We take the blessings of Shri Ramchandraji, will raise the tricolour (and) will teach real nationalism" - so runs one of the party's main slogans for the rally.

The AAP - viewed by some opponents as a softer alternative to the BJP - has also stressed this does not make them the ruling party's 'B team' - a label it applied to the Congress ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, when Harish Rawat said the party would try to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya if successful at the polls.

"Ayodhya depicts the history and sentiments of people across the country. We believe in 'Ram Rajya' in the true essence... we are anything but the 'B Team' of the BJP. We believe in giving the voters exactly what they deserve," Huda Zariwala, a state spokesperson for the AAP said, when asked if evoking nationalism could make the party's campaign any different from the BJP.

Next year's election will be the AAP's first foray into UP state polls.

The party did contest the 2014 election but suffered big reverses - Arvind Kejriwal lost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi (in Varanasi) and Kumar Vishwas was beaten by Rahul Gandhi (in Amethi).

Apart from the AAP, almost every major party contesting, or looking to contest the election, has made a pit stop at Ayodhya this year.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is a regular visitor to Ayodhya, and the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for the Ram temple last year.

In July, Mayawati's BSP started its drive to woo Brahmin voters from Ayodhya, and a Samajwadi Party yatra also touched the temple town.