The deadline has been set to ensure that by the time next Lok Sabha polls are announced, the BJP is in a position to showcase it among its major accomplishments.
Construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya has been a poll promise of the BJP. (HT file Photo)
The Centre has set an October 2018 deadline for the completion of a Ramayana museum in Ayodhya and other culture and tourism projects even as it stays clear of the contentious issue of constructing a Ram temple in the city.
The deadline was set at a meeting chaired by minister of state (independent charge) for culture and tourism Mahesh Sharma earlier this week. Top brass of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the culture ministers of the BJP-ruled states attended the meeting, where it was decided that these projects should be completed by October 2018, before the BJP-led NDA government completes its five-year term.
The RSS is the ideological fountainhead of the ruling BJP and wants the party to be able to showcase some achievements before it heads for the next general election.
The sprawling state-of-the-art Ramayana museum will showcase the “life and times” of Rama in his ostensible birthplace in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
The Buddhist tourism circuit will link pilgrimage sites related to Buddha and Buddhism.
The meeting, which came close on the heels of the Modi-government’s three years in office, took stock of various projects with religious and cultural significance undertaken by the Centre.
With an eye on religious and cultural tourism, the government announced 13 thematic circuits, including the North-East India Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit among others.
According to a source privy to the meeting, a task-force would be set up to monitor the implementation of projects before the next general elections.
Ministers from the BJP-ruled states were also given directions to ensure the “holistic development” of cities such as the Prime Minister’s constituency Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, also a popular religious destination.
Cities that have been picked for heritage conservation will also have to submit detailed plans, along with completion deadline, for providing connectivity and facilities for tourists.
“It was decided that out of the 12 cities that have been shortlisted for development under pilgrimage rejuvenation and spirituality augmentation drive (PRASAD) by the tourism ministry, work should be visible on the ground in at least 10 by October 2108,” a source told HT.
Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Gaya(Bihar), Dwaraka(Gujarat), Amritsar(Punjab), Mathura(Uttar Pradesh), Kedarnath (Uttarakhand) and Kamakhya (Assam) are among the 12 cities identified for development under PRASAD.
The same deadline has been set for the ministry of urban development’s heritage city development and augmentation yojana (HRIDAY) in 12 cities. The scheme aimed at “preserving and revitalising the soul and unique character of the heritage cities”.
Ajmer, Amritsar, Gaya and Mathura are among the cities earmarked for this project.
“The idea of setting the deadline is to ensure that by the time the next Lok Sabha polls are announced, the BJP should be able to showcase its accomplishments,” the source said.
Since, these projects involve different ministries, an inter-ministerial group of officials from the Centre together with their counterparts from the states will submit a status report of these projects within one month.
Ministers of states such as Uttarakhand, where the BJP has recently formed the government, have been asked to identify projects that can be completed within the deadline.
BJP general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal, vice president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, RSS leaders Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal were present at the meeting.
There was no discussion on the construction of Ram temple as only enlisted government projects were discussed, the source said.
Construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya has been a poll promise of the BJP and the issue was in the spotlight during the recently concluded assembly elections in UP, where the party came back to power after 15 years with three-fourth majority.
After the BJP secured a landslide victory in the state the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy said there could be no compromise on the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)—an affiliate of the RSS—too exuded confidence that after the BJP’s victory the Ram Temple would be constructed soon at the disputed site.
The controversial temple was at the heart of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement launched in the nineties that propelled BJP into a major political force in the country.
The proponents of the movement want a temple to be built at the site where the Babri Masjid – which was demolished in 1992 – once stood.
The Supreme Court recently suggested all parties concerned should sit together to arrive at a consensus to amicably settle the contentious Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue, which the top court described as “sensitive” and “sentimental.”