‘I prayed to Ram Lalla for good governance in the country’

Amit Shah, Narendra Modi’s point man in Uttar Pradesh, on Saturday raked up the issue of Ram temple, saying the party would soon build a grand temple in Ayodhya.

“I came here to pray to Ram Lalla. I wish we will soon build a grand temple for Lord Ram here and restore Lord Ram to his rightful place,” he told reporters in Ayodhya before attending a meeting with party workers from the Awadh region.

Mr. Shah’s comment comes amid growing speculation that the BJP might look to invoke Hindutava in the State, where it made reasonable gains during the heydays of the Ram janmabhoomi movement in the early 1990s. The observation gains further prominence with recent reports saying that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi could contest next year’s Lok Sabha election from Varanasi, an important city for Hindus.

Mr. Shah, a former Home Minister of Gujarat and close aide of Mr. Modi, also targeted the Congress. He said he “prayed to Ram Lalla for good governance in the country and making it free of the Congress.”

He declined to answer questions on the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case.

Mr. Shah, who is also the party’s general secretary, held a meeting with party workers at Karsewakpuram, where stones carved for the proposed grand temple are kept. He urged the party’s district heads to work hard at the booth levels. “If the BJP is to win, the booths will need to be won,” he said.

The Congress criticised Mr. Shah for politicising the Ram temple issue, saying communal politics would not work in the State. “The BJP cannot convert U.P. into Gujarat.”

“The BJP was in power for six years and incidentally even in the State, yet they did not construct the temple. Politicising the issue of Ram mandir won’t work. It might have worked once, but people won't be fooled this time. The voters in the State will reject communal politics,” Congress’s State spokesperson Dwijendra Tripathi told The Hindu .

“The BJP needs to get its agenda clear. Some of its leaders have expressed that Ram mandir won’t be on the party’s agenda. If the BJP wants to do any better, they should look at issues that concern the common man,” he said.