In Ayodhya’s famous Shaheed Gali, where several pro-temple activists were killed in a police firing in 1990 (under Mulayam Singh as CM), shopkeepers are celebrating Holi and the BJP's victory with slogans of "Jai Shri Ram" and "Har Har Modi".
The scene is colourful and the mood upbeat — sweets and cups of tea are being offered and animated discussions are focussed on the massive victory. In another neighbourhood, a jubilant Anuj Das smeared in Holi colours is breathless while talking about BJP’s landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh.
He is a first-time voter and is studying to become a priest in a temple in Ayodhya’s Lakshman Ghat area.
Asked what he expects from the new government, he said: “First of all they should ensure that youth get jobs. Those who deserve should get the reward and those who err should be punished."
|'This is the best chance that the BJP will ever get to build a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.'|
When asked about what he wants for his birthplace, Ayodhya, Arun Das was forthright, “Look, this is the best chance that the BJP will ever get to build a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya. They are at the Centre and now in the state. Therefore, I want them to act on it soon."
Dipendra Das is a 45-year-old "ascetic" in Ayodhya’s iconic Hanumangarhi. He too is an avowed Modi-supporter.
Das feels people are being unfair in criticising Prime Minister Modi for not visiting Ayodhya even once since assuming office. When asked the same question regarding Ayodhya’s development, he answered in a more balanced way.
“What matters is that the Ayodhya dispute is resolved soon. It makes no difference if he comes here or not.”
And what does he expect from the new government?
“They should waive farmers' loans and take all communities together in developing Uttar Pradesh”.
The Ayodhya dispute that Das refers to is the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute that has been the cause of the bloody riots after the demolition of the Babri Masjid by a militant mob led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in 1992.
At the time of the demolition, Uttar Pradesh was ruled by a BJP government under chief minister Kalyan Singh. The dispute essentially stems from the belief of VHP that claims that the Babri Masjid stood over the exact spot where Lord Ram was born.
The demolition of the medieval-era mosque was followed by bloody riots across the country in which according to official figures at least 2,000 people from both communities were killed.
The sordid episode permanently polarised the country. As of now, the matter is in the Supreme Court, which has to decide who owns the land on which Babri Masjid stood — the Hindus or the Sunni Waqf Board, a Muslim body in charge of religious properties.
Without the Supreme Court’s assent, the dispute is unlikely to be settled even by the BJP, which rules the Centre and will soon form the government in Uttar Pradesh.
The Ayodhya seat itself has gone to BJP’s Ved Gupta, who defeated the sitting MLA from Samajwadi Party by more than 30,000 votes.
Ayodhya, therefore, has spoken its heart by electing a recent "import" to the BJP. They want the dispute resolved so that the town can also see some much-awaited development. Ved Gupta joined the BJP only recently, he was earlier with the BSP.
However, not all are so hopeful of the BJP’s ability to resolve the dispute. Some like Prakash Singh, a local businessman, are even suspicious of its intent to build a Ram temple.
“We have the experience of 25 years, the BJP only uses the temple issue for its political gain. It is not sincere about Ram, Ayodhya or its people. Let’s see if they will do something this time”.
The opinion is shared by many others, but largely Ayodhyans are hopeful that this time it’s a different BJP under Modi, and it means what it says.
The Mahants or Abbots of various temples of Ayodhya too wish that the temple-mosque issue is resolved amicably. But most of them are aligned with different parties and therefore even after repeated attempts refused to come on record.
“You have to wait, it’s too early to say anything as the matter is in court,” said a prominent Mahant who didn’t wish to be named.
Satyendra Das, the court-appointed mahant of the Ram-Janambhoomi temple, shared his views on the massive mandate for the BJP.
“All parties keep raising the issue of Ram temple. This time, we are most hopeful that Ayodhya will see some development. It needs to be developed as a tourist centre and for that the Ram temple needs to be built. But it’s not simple as the matter is in the Supreme Court.”
I ask him pointedly if he thinks that the BJP government will be able to resolve the dispute and build the temple.
“If they don’t do it this time, they will have no excuse left to give the people”.
The priests and traders may be optimistic most about the Ram temple, but the wide sections of daily-wage earners, petty vendors and others from the marginalised sections are more worried about the fallout of a BJP government with such a brute majority.
Rajesh Kumar, who sells combs and other knick-knacks in the villages around Ayodhya and Faizabad, is already wary of the upper-caste domination that is associated with the BJP.
“I voted for the BSP, but now we are nowhere. I hope Modiji will be able to protect us and his government will benefit us too”.
His fear is shared by Amir, a Muslim youth in nearby Haibatpur village, too. “BJP supporters are already taunting us. I hope that Modiji delivers his promise of peace and development. That’s all I can wish for.”
In neighbouring Faizabad, Ramesh Chaurasiya, a long-time BJP supporter describes the victory as a mandate by the people for Ayodhya’s development and Ram temple’s construction.
“You must realise that we have given such a massive win because BJP leaders used to claim that they can deliver the Ram temple and development only when they are both in the state and at the Centre."
He added that he and others have made the BJP's dream come true and now they will not accept any more delays on both these issues.
"And if they don’t keep their promise, 2019 elections are not very far,” he warned.