#AyodhyaDiary: The BJP's celebrity endorsement pack
Who are the best-known faces on the state guests' list at the Ayodhya pran pratishthan? The importance of industrialists in the Ram Mandir's success is clear
Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, business tycoons Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani and sporting icon Sachin Tendulkar are among the 'state guests' invited to the consecration of the Ram temple tomorrow, 22 January.
Of the 8,000-odd official invitees overall are these 506 'select' A-listers, the PTI reports, of prominent politicians, leading industrialists, top film stars, sportspersons, diplomats, judges and high priests.
The Filmi Fare
According to the list, which PTI claims to have accessed, Bachchan is one of the confirmed arrivals, flying into Ayodhya's new airport by a private chartered plane—at least, that's the plan, but he will have North India's dense fog blanket to contend with if Saturday (21 January) morning is anything to go by. Perhaps he should have ensconced himself in his Rs 14.5 crore Ayodhya home beforehand?
From the film industry, the list features Tamil superstar Rajnikant and Telugu stars Prabhas, Allu Arjun and Junior NTR. Bollywood actors on the list include Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Ajay Devgn, Madhuri Dixit, Kangana Ranaut (she was last seen feeding a herd of hungry cows in Ayodhya in her marigold yellow saree) as well as BJP’s own actor-MPs Hema Malini and Sunny Deol.
Of course, the 'OG' Ramayan actors from Ramanand Sagar's TV rendition of the epic—Arun Govil who portrayed Lord Ram, Dipika Chikhlia (Sita) and Sunil Lahri (Lakshman)—have already graced Ayodhya's streets garbed in on-brand red and gold, to promote their newest allied production, Humare Ram Aaye Hain, featuring singer Sonu Nigam.
Chiranjeevi, Mohanlal and Allu Arjun are promised, as are director Madhur Bhandarkar and playback singers Shreya Ghoshal, Kailash Kher, Shankar Mahadevan, Anup Jalota, Sonu Nigam and Anuradha Paudwal.
Also among the invitees—in a surprise in these times, sadly—are sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, lyricist and poet Manoj Muntashir and his wife, lyricist and writer Prasoon Joshi and director Sanjay Bhansali.
Executive and Judiciary to speak in one voice?
Included in the guest list BJP president J.P. Nadda as well as Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and former CJI Ranjan Gogoi. Indeed, all five judges of the infamous Babri Masjid judgement are invitees.
Senior BJP leader and former deputy prime minister L K Advani and senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who played prominent roles in the Ram temple movement, are on the list too, despite some uncertainty about their role early on. The family of Kalyan Singh, who was chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the Babri Masjid was demolished, is also invited to join the celebrations of this, the final outcome.
Also invited: former Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi; Ranjan Bhattacharya, the son-in-law of Atal Bihari Vajpayee; former presidents Ramnath Kovind and Pratibha Patil; former vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu. Is former prime minister Manmohan Singh of the Congress invited for additional legitimacy? We shall own our surprise if he does attend.
Former Union minister Arun Jaitley's wife Sangeeta and daughter Sonali, former Planning Commission chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia, former Lok Sabha speakers Sumitra Mahajan and Meira Kumar, and H.D. Kumaraswamy are in the list too.
So are senior advocate Harish Salve as well as former diplomats Veena Sikri and Lakshmi Puri.
Science and spirituality are also one
Former ISRO chairperson K Sivan and DRDO scientist Sudarshan Sharma too have been invited. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi and ISRO director Nilesh Desai are also invited, as is Vande Bharat Express train mastermind Sudhanshu Mani.
ISRO chairperson S. Somnath will surely be there. Delhi Metro principal advisor E. Sreedharan and NITI member V.K. Saraswat are invited too.
Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti as well as several top priests have been given state guest status alongside them.
The sports team of cheerleaders
Cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar, chess grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, sprint queen P.T. Usha and footballer Bhaichung Bhutia are among the prominent sports personalities who have received invitations.
Cricket stars former and present, including Kapil Dev, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, little master Sunil Gavaskar, Virat Kohli, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Virendra Sehwag, Ravindra Jadeja and Rohit Sharma have got invites as well.
Weightlifter Karnam Malleswari, women cricket captain Mitali Raj, shuttler Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu and her trainer Pullela Gopichand have also been invited.
The importance of industry and industrialists
The importance of corporate investment leaders to the success of the 'new Ayodhya' can't be underestimated—and this is underscored by the sheer length of this portion of the list.
Business tycoon Gautam Adani will surely be there, and mining mogul Anil Agarwal.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani has been invited with his whole extended family, seemingly—his mother Kokilaben, wife Neeta, sons Akash and Anant, daughter-in-law Shloka and would-be daughter-in-law Radhika Merchant are on the list.
So are Ratan N. Tata, chairman emeritus of the salt-to-software Tata Group, and Tata Sons chairperson N. Chandrasekaran and his wife Lalitha.
The Hinduja group's Ashok Hinduja, Wipro's Azim Premji, Nusli Wadia of Bombay Dyeing, Torrent group founder and chairperson Sudhir Mehta, GMR Group’s G.M.R. Rao and yes, real estate baron Niranjan Hiranandani have also been invited. (The last is of course father to Darshan Hiranandani, now made notorious as friend to expelled MP Mahua Moitra, whose interests are popularly considered 'anti-national' if the loudest/most prolific netizens on social media were the sole judges.)
Other prominent industrialists invited include Aditya Birla Group chairperson Kumar Mangalam Birla and his wife Nirja, Piramal Group’s Ajay Piramal, Mahindra & Mahindra's Anand Mahindra and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) CEO K. Krithivasan.
The Jindal Steel & Power head Naveen Jindal, Kotak Mahindra Bank founder Uday Kotak and Infosys co-founders N.R. Narayana Murthy and his wife Sudha Murthy are to come, so are Infosys' current head Nandan Nilekani and company co-founder T.V. Mohandas Pai.
G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant is also among the invitees.
But who will actually be there?
It is not clear how many of them will actually attend the ceremony.
While some on the list may fly in private jets on January 22, others are likely to take regular flights to reach a day earlier and stay overnight either in Ayodhya or nearby cities like Lucknow.
And then, while he won't likely make a physical appearance, there is Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, convicted of two rapes and murders and currently out on parole, who has endorsed the festivities with a call for followers to celebrate where they are, per a Times of India report.
With inputs from PTI