Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh): The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has proposed building a big statue of Lord Ram on the banks of the Saryu River in the temple town of Ayodhya, not far from the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi - Babri Masjid site. Sources said the height of the statue will be imposing, but refused to confirm reports that it could be 100 metres tall.
The proposal, made to the state governor, said officials, is part of a plan to boost religious tourism in Uttar Pradesh, a key focus area for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath since he took over seven months ago after his party, the BJP swept the UP assembly elections.
Yes there is a proposal for a Ram statue in Ayodhya. It is at a conceptual stage right now, there are many other proposals for different tourist destinations across Uttar Pradesh and this is one of them. If you go to Bali in Indonesia, you will find many such statues around and our idea is to give a boost to tourism in the area," said Avanish Awasthi, the government officer in-charge of tourism in Uttar Pradesh.
"Alleging that the ruling BJP indulges in “cow politics”, Samajwadi Party’s Ghanshyam Tiwari said, “With vigilantes ruling high, crimes spiralling, no ideas and vision towards infrastructure, education, public health, the BJP is depending on hyper-religious agendas.”
Next week, the chief minister heads to Ayodhya with all his ministers to celebrate Diwali. UP Governor Ram Naik will also attend, as will union Tourism Minister KJ Alphonse and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.
Today Yogi Adityanath is accompanying BJP chief Amit Shah and union minister Smriti Irani in Amethi, the parliament constituency of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and they are holding a mega rally in what is seen as an attempt to wrest away the last remaining Gandhi bastions in crucial Uttar Pradesh. Amethi and neighbouring Rai Bareli, the parliament constituency of Rahul Gadhi's mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi were the only two seats the Congress won in the state in the 2014 national elections. The BJP hopes to make it zero in the 2019 election
The appointment of Yogi Adityanath, a prominent champion of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya, as chief minister after the BJP swept UP earlier this year was seen to signal the party's focus on the temple and on Ayodhya ahead of the 2019 elections. But BJP leaders in UP say its not just about the Ram Janmbhoomi issue, the party wants Ayodhya to get the same religious importance as the ancient town of Varanasi.
"Ayodhya has its importance, we cannot neglect that. Many Hindus see it as part of their faith. We have planned a unique event on Chhoti Diwali (a day before Diwali) and arrangements are being made," Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had said a few weeks ago.
An aarti is planned on the banks of the Saryu River on the eve of Diwali and thousands of earthen lamps or diyas will be lit in the town. The Chief Minister, who is also head priest at the Gorakhnath temple in UP's Gorakhpur, will lead a procession through the main streets of the town.
In May this year, Yogi Adityanath offered prayers at the makeshift Ram temple at the disputed Ram Janmbhoomi - Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya. Huge crowds of pilgrims and local people shouted slogans of "Jai Sri Ram" to greet the Chief Minister.
The 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 mosque in December 1992.