A “new” district figures on the map of Uttar Pradesh 26 years after the Babari Masjid fell to the pickaxe wielded by the Hindutva brigade. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has rechristened Faizabad as Ayodhya arguably to make amends for the delay in the construction of the temple, indeed an issue that is now before the Supreme Court.
In a sense, he has sought to buttress the BJP’s standing ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election and in a state that has incurred considerable notoriety over the mortal depredations of gau rakshaks, not to forget the oxygen scandal in a hospital. Not wholly unrelated to the renaming of a sensitive district is the plan to set up an airport ~ in the name of Lord Ram ~ and a medical college named after Ram’s father, Dasarath. Clearly, it is a three-pronged intiative to placate the dominant segment ~ the renaming of Faizabad and if not a temple quite yet, then an airport and medical college in the name of Ram.
The trend was manifest last year and it is pretty obvious that the Chief Minister from Gorakhpur has pursued a calculated plan of action. It bears recall that Faizabad Municipal Board was upgraded to a municipal corporation and named Ayodhya Municipal Corporation. With the renaming of Faizabad, the profound connotation that the name of Ram evokes in the Hindi heartland has seemingly been extended to its logical conclusion. It is quite another issue that a certain community might feel aggrieved over the change of name. Suffice it to register that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s man in Lucknow has addressed the party’s campaign planks for the Lok Sabha election. He has clothed Tuesday’s presentation in Ayodhya by singing paeans to Narendra Modi and reminding his audience that Ayodhya is a symbol of aan, baan aur shaan (honour, pride, and prestige). Towards that end, funds have been allocated for the Namami Ganga project to ensure that drain water does not flow into the Saryu river.
He has timed his announcement judiciously, when hundreds of thousands of people were lighting earthen lamps on the banks of the Saryu on the eve of Diwali. He has utilised the occasion of Deepavali to underline the emotive significance of Ayodhya. Adityanath’s recipe for Ayodhya’s development can be contextualised with Tuesday’s decision of the VHP to hold public meetings in all Lok Sabha constituencies to garner the support of MPs for the passage of a Bill in the winter session of Parliament for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The campaign for a temple in Ayodhya has been ratcheted up with barely six months to go for the election. And no less crucially with the Supreme Court yet to pronounce its verdict. The fuse has been lit.