Even as the Uttar Pradesh government clamped down on the VHP’s 84 Kosi Parikrama from Ayodhya, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday came out in defence of the VHP yatra and targeted the Akhilesh Yadav government for hindering the “democratic right of seers” and using the ban for political gain.

BJP president Rajnath Singh said, “Ram Mandir is not an election issue but a cultural one. It was wrong to ban the yatra. Adequate security should have been provided for it.”

Senior BJP leader Kalraj Mishra said the ban was tantamount to tampering with the Constitution and democracy.

The yatra invited strong comments from political parties, with the Congress describing it as a political stunt. Party general secretary Digvijay Singh tweeted: “Match fixing in Ayodhya?”Uttar Pradesh Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi lashed out at the VHP calling it a “political organisation” and suggested that its leader Ashok Singhal “should contest elections” if he cared about the issue. “The VHP is not a religious organisation. This is not a religious yatra. It is a political one, meant to disrupt communal harmony. It has been staged with clear sights on Delhi,” she said.

Janata Dal (United) leader Sabir Ali hit out at the BJP for raising the Ram mandir issue “whenever election time comes close.” “They can go to any extent for politics,” he said.