New Delhi/Ayodhya: Amid intense politics over his Ayodhya visit, Union Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma said on Tuesday that he is honoured to have visited the holy city and assured that a grand Ram Temple is not far from turning into a reality.
Addressing a huge gathering in Ayodhya, Sharma said, “It is my honour to visit Ayodhya and work for Ram Lalla.''
He also assured the saint community and the majority Hindus that though the purpose of his Ayodhya visit is 'development', there is no one denying that a grand Ram Temple would be built here sooner or later.
Sharma also credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sending him to Ayodhya to explore how the holy city could become a major tourist centre and create job opportunities for unemployed local youths.
PM Narendra Modi, who is being recognised as global leaders by even the most powerful leaders of the world, has already initiated the process for construction of a Ram Temple here, he added.
Sharma arrived in the holy city this morning and said that promoting tourism and development of the area is his key priority.
Talking to reporters shortly after his arrival here, Sharma said, “I have come here to explore the prospects of developing the area, creating more employment opportunities for youths and promoting the city as a key tourism centre.''
When quizzed about his planned visit to the disputed Ram Temple site, Sharma said, ''I will meet everyone including the saints, listen to their suggestions and then proceed to inspect a site for construction of a Ramayana museum dedicated to Lord Ram.''
Mahesh Sharma, however, confirmed that he would be visiting the makeshift temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex later.
सरयू का अभिषेक और संतों का आशीर्वाद सौभाग्य से मिलता है । मैं अभिभूत हूँ । pic.twitter.com/dJogtTnJ69
— Dr. Mahesh Sharma (@dr_maheshsharma) October 18, 2016
"My visit to Ayodhya has nothing to do with UP Assembly Elections. I am visiting Ayodhya as a Tourism Minister. It should not be linked to politics but is part of government's effort to improve tourism in Ayodhya and all over the country. The visit is part of govt's developmental agenda," he had said earlier.
However, coinciding with Sharma's Ayodhya visit, hard-boiled Sangh leader Vinay Katiyar today said that Hindus would be satisfied with nothing less than a beautiful and grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
Katiyar, who is also the Bajrang Dal national president, termed the move to construct a Ramayana museum as a ''lollipop''. Wherever I go, saints ask me when will the construction of Ram Temple start, he said.
Pitching for a grand Ram Temple, Katiyar said that efforts are being made to divert attention from main issues by the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP government in Uttar Pradesh. What is the point in making two museums - one by Samajwadi Party government and the other by Centre – in the name of Ram Lalla, he asked.
Katiyar, however, said that sincere efforts should be made for the construction of Ram Temple, not just fancy announcements aimed at wooing the electorate.
Though Sharma downplayed any political motive behind his Ayodhya visit, the move is being seen as an attempt to woo pro-Hindutva elements over the contentious issue of Ram temple ahead of Uttar Pradesh polls in 2017.
The proposed museum has revived the demand for construction of Ram temple, with BJP hardliners like Union Minister Uma Bharti too pitching for it on Monday.
Katiyar yesterday went on to demand tabling of a legislation in the Lok Sabha where the BJP-led NDA has a "massive majority".
"Why only Subramanian Swamy, every devotee of Ram wants the temple to be constructed soon. Until that happens we cannot live in peace. Be it through a bill in Parliament, through dialogue or a court verdict, the government has to find a solution.
"Of course, we don't have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, but a bill for construction of the temple can be brought in the Lok Sabha where we have a massive majority. The Ram temple was also a part of BJP's election manifesto," he said, adding "no deadline can be set for the government on this issue".
Uma Bharti, another stormy petrel of the Ram temple movement, said, "The issue is what we, the agitators, were claiming as the place where Lord Ram was born was indeed that place or not. A three-judge bench (of Allahabad High Court) agreed with our contention.
"What is under challenge is the dispute over land between the Waqf Board and Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, not that whether Ram was born there or not," she said
Earlier, BSP supremo Mayawati, a major contender to power in the key battleground state, Congress and the DMK criticised the move, saying it was being made for "electoral benefits".
The land for the proposed museum has been provided by the Uttar Pradesh government.
"Developing tourism in Ayodhya is good but, how come the Narendra Modi government thought of developing the Ramayana Sangrahalay (museum) and the state government of Ramleela theme park just before the Assembly polls," she said in a release in Lucknow.
"Linking religion with politics and electoral gains by these governments is condemnable...had they really been so concerned about these issues, they would have thought about them long ago," the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said.
Congress leader and former Union minister RPN Singh too accused the Modi government and BJP of invoking Ram months ahead of the assembly polls due early next year for deriving political mileage out of it.