Early Diwali in Ayodhya as PM Modi lays foundation stone of Ram Temple

Devotees celebrate the start of the Ram temple construction in Ayodhya (Photo: PTI)
Dressed in a white dhoti and gamcha, octogenarian Jagannath Das was effusive in his praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “actualising the centuries-old Ram temple dream” and reassuring people about his leadership qualities.

“The people of Ayodhya have been celebrating Diwali over the past few days in the run up to the groundbreaking ceremony of the temple,” Das, an ascetic, said on Wednesday, while taking a stroll on the banks of Saryu river, which is flowing above the danger mark owing  to monsoon.

His sentiments are echoed by a majority of locals across the economic, age and gender divides, who believe it was Modi who facilitated the beginning of the temple’s construction.

In anticipation of the ceremony on Wednesday, the temple town was decorated with murals, festoons, saffron flags and large hoardings with the smiling image of Modi along with messages of gratitude expressed by the local politicians and commoners.
During his near three-hour stay in the temple town, Modi telescoped the tryst of BJP with the temple issue spanning about 30 years, which helped the party come to power at the Centre and form governments in several states.

The leading lights of the temple movement, including former deputy PM Lal Krishna Advani, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti, former Union HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi, and former Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Katiyar, were absent from the ceremony, and Modi managed to win the laurels on behalf of his party and senior colleagues.

Before Modi became Gujarat chief minister in 2001, he was the right-hand man of Advani, the architect of BJP’s temple movement, whose countrywide Rath Yatra in 1990 from Somnath to Ayodhya paved the way for the party’s emergence on the national political firmament.

It was Modi who managed the Rath Yatra, before it abruptly halted at Samastipur in Bihar, when Advani was arrested in October 1990 on the orders of then Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad.

While, Advani could not attend the ceremony on Wednesday owing to the Covid-19 protocols, Modi marked the fulfillment of one of the BJP’s most prominent electoral promises.

Interestingly, this was Modi’s first visit to the temple site as PM, although he visited Ayodhya on May 1, 2019, in the run up to the parliamentary elections. 

Earlier, he had also visited Ayodhya on May 5, 2014, to address a public meeting during the 2014 elections. He was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate then and was still serving as the Gujarat chief minister.

However, he had paid obeisance at the site on January 14, 1992 as a BJP functionary during his much talked about Ekta Yatra from Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) to Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir.

Ram Temple Trust president Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, speaking at the ceremony, credited Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath with the temple’s construction even as he appealed to them to ensure there was no further delay.

Adityanath said it was thanks to Modi that the country was witnessing the historic day after a wait of nearly 500 years for the Ram temple.

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