Lord Ram looked set to occupy political centre-stage in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh despite the Bharatiya Janata Party’s claim of a temple to the deity not being on its agenda, with Union Minister Mahesh Sharma saying on Tuesday that those who get to do "Ram Ka Kaam" (serve Ram) were fortunate.
"If anyone gets a chance to work for Bhagwan Ram he is most fortunate... it will be good fortune if Bhagwan Ram gives us a chance to do 'Ram ka kaam' and this responsibility has been given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the people of the country," Sharma said during his visit to Aodhya to inspect the proposed site for setting up a Ramayana museum.
The proposed museum, to be built on a 25 acre plot given by the Uttar Pradesh government nearly 15 km from the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex, has reignited demands by BJP hardliners like Vinay Katiyar for building a Ram temple at the site where the Babri mosque stood before being pulled down in 1992.
Katiyar, who had on Monday demanded that a bill be brought in the Lok Sabha for creation of Ram temple, said on Tuesday no positive efforts were being made for construction of the temple and only "lollipop" was being offered to the devotees of the deity.
"A race is on...somebody is building a museum, somebody else (the Akhilesh Yadav government) a Ramleela Theme Park. We welcome development of Ayodhya, but everything is useless without construction of Ram temple. We cannot compromise on that.
"No positive steps are being taken for building Ram temple, which is the core job that needs to be done. The Samajwadi Party government that shot dead kar sevaks and now is offering lollipop in the form of a theme park," Katiyar, a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha who once represented Faizabad, the district where Ayodhya is located, in Parliament, said.
"Mann ban chuka hai, mahaul ban chuka hai (we have made up our mind, a conducive atmosphere has also been created). The beginning has been made and we have got the directives from Ram Lala," Sharma said, adding, "We are the Lord's children and so have to do his work of spreading education".
Insisting that Ram temple was not on the Modi government's agenda, Sharma said Ayodhya's development will get a big push from the Rs 151 crore allotted for developing the proposed museum, which will present the life of the deity as portrayed in sage Valmiki's epic.
He said there was no politics behind the proposed museum being constructed as part of the Ramayana Circuit. Similarly a Krishna Circuit and a Buddhist Circuit were also being developed, Sharma said.
He said Ram temple was an "issue of faith" for millions of people, but it was not on BJP's electoral agenda.
The minister said the government would try to have the museum inaugurated before Uttar Pradesh votes to elect a new government.
The Modi government, however, came under attack from the Congress over the issue with party general secretary Digvijay Singh alleging the museum and Ram temple were being raked up with an eye on the assembly election in Uttar Pradesh due early next year.
"Come election, come Ram Mandir issue. This is what BJP has as a strategy. Nobody is against the temple. I am a practising Hindu, but even Lord Ram would not have wanted a temple in the atmosphere of dispute. The BJP has been trying to fool all the people all the time," Singh said.
Singh said Modi's chant of "Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram" at a Dussehra event in Lucknow was "obviously" intended to polarise Hindu votes in favour of the BJP.
However, another Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan claimed there was "no attempt at polarisation" by constructing a Ramayana museum in Ayodhya.
"Lord Ram is not an issue linked with polls. Mahesh Sharma has been trying for Ramayana museum for the last year-and-a-half. If not a Ram museum, will a Babur (Mughal emperor) museum come up there," Balyan, an accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case, said.
About Katiyar's demand for building a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, he said,"The matter is pending with the court, nothing will happen without its verdict."
Image: Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma