Ayodhya/Lucknow, Feb 11 (PTI) Over 300 Uttar Pradesh legislators packed in 10 buses and some cars travelled Sunday from Lucknow to the new Ayodhya Ram Mandir, a state government-organised event skipped only by the opposition Samajwadi Party.
Members from the Jayant Chaudhary's Rashtriya Lok Dal too were part of the group, their participation seen as another indication that the party is all set to switch sides from the SP to the ruling BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Flower petals were showered on the blue state roadways luxury buses in Ayodhya as they brought the legislators. Some people even stood atop a bulldozer and showered flowers on the cars.
Legislators from both the state assembly (current strength 399) and the legislative council (100) took part in the day trip to the temple town, about two and a half hours away. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who was in Pune earlier, flew down to Ayodhya separately to join the MLAs.
The temple was opened to public on January 23, a day after the consecration of the Ram Lalla idol there on a nationally televised event led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The planned Ayodhya trip comes a day after a resolution lauding the consecration was read out in Parliament.
Ayodhya District Magistrate Nitish Kumar said the darshan took place “in sequence” so that ordinary devotees could continue with their own darshan. The process took about an hour and a half. This was followed by lunch.
Adityanath shared a 14-minute video clip of his visit. Some MLAs, including Speaker Satish Mahana were seen chanting ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram'. Some sat on the stairs of the temple, posing for group photos.
Assembly sources said about 325 legislators offered prayers. Some of them were accompanied by their spouses, and altogether there were over 400 people in the group.
Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) leader Raghuraj Pratap Singh, Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party’s O P Rajbhar, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Umashankar Singh and RLD’s Rajpal Singh Baliyan were among those who travelled to Ayodhya.
Aradhana Mishra, one of two Congress MLAs in the state assembly, was there. The top leadership of the opposition party had skipped the January 22 event.
UP Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak had the Lok Sabha polls and the 2027 assembly polls too in his thoughts.
"Got the much-awaited and divine 'darshan' of Lord Ram Lalla,” he said. “May the devotees of Lord Ram receive his blessings, and in 2024 a Modi government is formed and 400-plus seats are obtained. May the figure of 300-plus seats be achieved in UP in 2027." The MLAs skipped a visit to Ayodhya’s Hanumangarhi temple due to lack of time and the crowd there, Principal Secretary (Home) Sanjay Prasad said.
Deputy CMs Pathak and Keshav Prasad Maurya linked the SP’s decision not to come to Ayodhya to the opposition party’s “minority appeasement policy”.
The charge was also made by Aditynath in the House after Akhilesh Yadav declined the government invitation extended to all MLAs through the Speaker.
The BJP leaders also recalled the police firing on ‘kar sevaks’ in Ayodhya during Mulayam Singh Yadav’s term as CM.
Congress MLA Aradhana Mishra, however, defended the SP's stand, saying one can go to Ayodhya whenever convenient to them.
Her party colleague in the House had earlier excused himself from the trip, saying he had of another commitment.
"Members of both Houses of the Uttar Pradesh Legislature have left for Ayodhya. If anybody is not going, it is the 'samaaptwadi party'," Maurya told PTI, in an apparent reference to the SP. "Samaapt" means "end" in Hindi.
"All of us are going as 'Ram bhakts,” he had said before leaving for the temple town.
Assembly Speaker Mahana and Legislative Council chairman Kunwar Manvendra Singh were part of the trip.
Before leaving for Ayodhya, Mahana said, "This is a matter of faith. Nobody can be forced to visit the 'darbar' of any God.” During a discussion on the Budget in the House on Saturday, the Speaker had urged Akhilesh Yadav too to come along. "We will go only when Lord Shri Ram calls us,” the Leader of Opposition had replied.
Yadav had similarly turned down an invitation to attend the consecration ceremony, initially saying he had not received any. He then said he would visit the Ram Mandir with his family after the consecration ceremony.
BSP MLA Umashankar Singh told PTI that SP leaders themselves had asked the Speaker to facilitate a trip once the consecration ceremony is over.
He claimed this was at a meeting of party leaders with the Speaker, and SP MLA Rakesh Singh had given a written request. “There should not be any kind of politics in this," the BSP leader said.
"Ours is a secular party, we respect all religions. Today, we are going on the directive of the Speaker. Tomorrow, if the best mosque of the world comes up there, we will go then as well,” he added.
BJP’s Manju Siwach said, "Every day, we have a darshan of the pictures of Lord Ram. But today we will have 'sakshaat' (face-to-face) darshan," she said.
RLD MLA Pradeep Kumar Singh, "It is a matter of faith and we all have faith in Lord Ram. Therefore, all of us are going today to have a darshan of Ram Lalla." In the currently 403-member UP Assembly, the BJP has 252 MLAs, its allies Apna Dal (Sonelal) 13 and Nishad party has six.
Opposition SP has 108 MLAs, RLD nine and SBSP six. The Congress and the Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) have two MLAs each and the BSP one. Four seats are vacant. PTI NAV SNS RPA KVK ASH ASH