Bhartiya Janata Party's all time favourite Ayodhya Ram Mandir issue has clearly taken a backseat in the party manifesto for the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. However, what appears to have taken Ayodhya's erstwhile prominent position were the multi-billion rupee monuments and parks erected by UP Chief Minister Mayawati.
Flaying Mayawati for devoting various memorials only to a 'particular set of personages', the BJP manifesto released in Lucknow on Friday made it loud and clear that if the party were to get voted to power, it would remodel the memorials and add statues of several other great people.
The 72- page document was released among others by state BJP president Surya Pratap Shahi, Uma Bharati, Kalraj Mishra and others at the party state headquarters in Lucknow.
"While we too hold Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar in very high esteem and regard him as one of our icons, we surely have reason to regret that Mayawati has systematically ignored a number of other great people, including social reformers like Sant Kabir and Sant Ravidas whose statues have not found place in any of the parks created at the cost of the state exchequer," the manifesto points out.
The construction of the much-debated Ram temple in Ayodhya, however, figures only in a passing reference as just any other issue.
While terming Mayawati's fad for statues and memorials in the name of her party icons as 'no different from the Congress party's obsession for naming anything and everything after some of its leaders', the manifesto makes it loud and clear, "We will add statues of other great leaders and social reformers in the parks and memorials built at a cost of thousands of crores."
It goes on to add, "After all these memorials and parks have been built with the tax-payer's money and were not private property of any political party."
The party has also decided to oppose tooth and nail the United Progressive Alliance government's move to provide 4.5 per cent reservation to backward minorities (largely Muslims).
Unmindful of the UPA government's repeated assertion that the announced reservation was simply carved out of the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs under the Mandal Commission recommendations, the BJP manifesto seeks to declare, "We are against any reservation on religious lines."
Interestingly, at the same time, the party has sought to clarify that it did not believe in religious discrimination. "We promise to look after the welfare of the minorities without following any policy of appeasement," it said, while adding, "We would like to modernise madrasa education and bring it to the mainstream and also take effective steps to ensure that religious minorities become a part and parcel of the national mainstream."
It further adds, "We would evolve a comprehensive law for management of Waqf properties so that these could be freed from the clutches of land mafia and criminals."
The thick manifesto booklet carries portraits of 19 BJP leaders -- starting with former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and ending with party's Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi -- each of whom were relevant to the politics of Uttar Pradesh.
While Vajpayee figured on the cover of the booklet, party president Nitin Gadkari appears prominently on the inside cover.