Rath Yatra politics set to take off in Uttar Pradesh again

With Ram Mandir—and perhaps assembly and general elections—in mind, VHP’s Ram Rath yatra is set to roll out from Ayodhya on Feb 13; to culminate in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu on Ram Navami on March 25

NH Photo
NH Photo

Biswajeet Banerjee

Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart Lal Krishna Advani had taken out a Rath Yatra in 1990 that re-defined the political landscape in India. Twenty eight years later, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) are all set to revisit yatra politics, when they take out a Rath Yatra from February 13 that will culminate in Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu on March 25, or Ram Navami.

The mascot of this yatra is Ram Das Mission Universal Society, an organisation that has roots in Kerala and Mumbai, while VHP is providing all the logistical support.

Sreesakthi Saanthananda, the mahant of the Mission who is in-charge of this yatra, minces no words in accepting that the mission of this rath yatra is to ensure construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Everyone wants a temple at that site and we are just galvanizing people in this cause, he said. Adding that “The people who are not able to visit Ayodhya will get to see how this proposed temple will look like as the Rath has been modeled on the lines of the proposed Ram Temple in Ayodhya.”

The re-modelled Ram Rajya rath was designed in Mumbai and it reached Karsewakpuram in Ayodhya on Saturday night. It is around 28 feet high, with pillars all around it. It has pictures of Lord Ganesh in the centre, flanked by pictures of Tulsidas and Valmiki—the two ancient poets credited with writing the Ram Charit Manas and Ramayana.

The Rath yatra will pass through Varanasi, Mirzapur, Chitrakoot, Bhopal, Indore, Ujjain and Nashik. The VHP plans ‘Maha Aartis’ in the villages through which it will pass, giving a new dimension to this yatra compared to LK Advani’s in 1990. Advani’s yatra had started from Somnath in Gujarat on September 25, 1990 and was to end at Ayodhya on October 30, after travelling 10,000 km. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at the time the in-charge of that yatra.

“BJP is committed to construction of Ram temple but has nothing to do with this Yatra. We welcome any initiative to make people aware about construction of temple in Ayodhya,” Vijay Bahadur Pathak, the party’s general secretary said

The BJP party website says, in the chapter on Ram Rath Yatra: “Shri Advani chose Somnath as the starting point of his yatra because the reconstruction of the shrine on the rubble of loot and plunder was the first chapter in a journey to "preserve the old symbols of unity, communal amity and cultural oneness". The Yatra was scheduled to conclude at Ayodhya and the ‘liberation’ of Ram Janmabhumi would be the second chapter.

It further said: “ … Today, the BJP is the largest political party in the country, thanks to the journey that began from Somnath during the Navaratri of 1990. The procession that began with a handful of nationalists led by an uncompromising nationalist is today a roaring stream of nationalist fervour. The pilgrimage will be over the day Ram Lalla finds his rightful place in a temple commemorating the sacred site of his birth.”

The BJP today acknowledges that the Rath Yatra of Advani was aimed to give a rightful place to 'Ram Lalla’ but is shy of commenting on the role of this Rath Yatra that will be taken out on February 13.

“BJP is committed to construction of Ram temple but has nothing to do with this Yatra. We welcome any initiative to make people aware about construction of temple in Ayodhya,” Vijay Bahadur Pathak, the party’s general secretary said.

But sources say the yatra is likely to be flagged off by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday, and that BJP Lok Sabha MP for Faizabad Lallu Singh, in whose constituency Ayodhya lies, and Ayodhya’s BJP mayor Rishikesh Upadhyay will also attend the function.

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