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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Lok Sabha elections 2024 Ram temple could give BJP an edge in tough LS fight for Ayodhya

Lok Sabha elections 2024: Ram temple could give BJP an edge in tough LS fight for Ayodhya

Updated on: 14 May,2024 07:25 AM IST  |  Faizabad
Faizan Khan |

There are, however, murmurs of dissatisfaction in certain pockets like those around the sacred site who still await compensation for their land

Lok Sabha elections 2024: Ram temple could give BJP an edge in tough LS fight for Ayodhya

Nandlal Gupta, BJP worker and shopkeeper

The fight between the BJP and INDIA bloc in Ayodhya appears to be a closely contested one. While the saffron party seems to have an advantage due to its role in the construction of the Ram temple and the recently held Pran Pratishtha ceremony, when mid-day visited the area, numerous locals and shopkeepers near the sacred site expressed resentment towards the BJP regarding the demolition of their shops during road widening and dissatisfaction with the compensation offered by the state government.

According to locals, the demolition drive in Ayodhya near the temple aimed at widening the road, particularly between Lata Mangeshkar Chowk and Shahadat Ganj, also known as Ram Path, a 13-kilometre stretch with several hundred shops. They asserted that most of their shops were affected, with only a small portion remaining. The government offered compensation ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh, with some receiving R40,000 or R50,000, based on the area of their shop affected by the demolition.

Anant Ram sweet shop owner
Anant Ram sweet shop owner

Locals argue that the real estate value of the area surrounding the temple is approximately Rs 1 lakh per square foot, suggesting that those who lost 40 square feet of shop space should have received at least Rs 40 lakh. However, they did not receive any such amount. Some claim that property owners received satisfactory compensation, while those renting their shops, especially those with illegal constructions, expressed dissatisfaction. These individuals either received minimal compensation or were relocated within Ayodhya.

‘Is this justice?’

Anant Ram, the owner of a sweet shop near the main gate of the temple, when questioned about the demolition drive during road widening, his eyes welled up with tears and he said, “Half of my shop has been demolished, leaving just a 4x15-foot area. The government has only compensated me with R1 lakh. Is this justice?”

He added, “If you speak to anyone here, everyone will tell you the same story of suffering and government neglect regarding compensation. None of us have issues with road widening; we understand that as Ayodhya becomes an international tourist destination, good roads are essential. However, what about our compensation? We have lived here for several decades.”

Saurabh Jaiswal, who runs a shop where utensils are sold for religious ceremonies, claimed that he had lost 70 square feet of shop area during the demolition in 2017 and had got only R1.14 lakh in compensation from the government.

Ram Path, the stretch where shops were demolished. PICS/FAIZAN KHAN
Ram Path, the stretch where shops were demolished. PICS/FAIZAN KHAN

“Initially I was getting compensation of Rs 40,000 and when we sought a larger sum, we got Rs 1.14 lakh, the current property rate near the temple is around R1 lakh per square foot. Ideally, I should have been getting compensation of Rs 70 lakh, but that didn’t happen,” Jaiswal said.

When mid-day asked why people still vote for the BJP despite the evident anger, Anant Ram responded, “Who told you that anger doesn’t reflect in elections? Let’s talk about the Ayodhya Vidhan Sabha seat. In 2017, the BJP won with a margin of 70,000 votes. However, in the 2022 state elections, the margin was just 10,000, indicating that 60,000 voters didn’t vote for the BJP. I feel that this Lok Sabha election is going to be tough; anything can happen. The alliance candidate is also putting up a tough fight.”

‘Media missing during razing’

Near Jaiswal’s shop, mid-day encountered an elderly toy seller. When approached, he refused to speak and displayed anger towards media coverage of the Ayodhya demolition drive. “I beg you with folded hands, please do not come to my shop. I don’t want to speak to the media. When our shops were demolished, what were you media people doing? Please leave my shop and do not come here again,” the shopkeeper said.

Later, this reporter learned that a significant portion of his shop had been demolished, leaving him only a few square feet to run his shop. He had received only Rs 1,14,000. Another shopkeeper, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “My shop is just 500 metres from the entry gate of the temple, and this road is now called Ram Path. Behind the shop, I had my residence. Now, my shop is fully demolished, and only a 2x10-foot area remains. This is the only shop I have, and now I use my home to store merchandise. The compensation I received is beyond description; I lost around 1,000 square feet of shop space during 
the demolition.”

He added, “People buy everything near the temple and hardly come this side. You will see a rush in the evening, but hardly anyone purchases anything. I feel that this election is going to be tough for the BJP if they don’t focus on these issues.” Another shopkeeper next to him echoed his sentiments, stating, “A lot of people want to speak up but are afraid of the authorities, so they choose to remain silent. I believe that this election is going to play an important role, especially in Ayodhya.”

Different perspective

Nandlal Gupta, a shopkeeper who revealed himself to be the parshad of the BJP in Ayodhya as well as the president of a trader association in Ayodhya, presented a different perspective on the demolition and explained that the landlords and owners of the plots had received adequate compensation. “See, today Ayodhya has become an international tourist destination. 

Hundreds of thousands of people come here daily, and who benefits from whatever they eat and shop? The people of Ayodhya. Individuals who are unhappy with the compensation are not the actual owners or landlords; the landlords have received good compensation,” Gupta said.

He added, “The government has relocated several individuals who were renting or illegally occupying land. They have received compensation and proper shops within Ayodhya. Road widening was necessary because as we are developing into an international city, proper roads are essential. Today, Ayodhya also has an international airport, and a lot of development work is underway.”

Opposition Speak

Pawan Pandey, spokesperson for the Samajwadi Party and a close aide of Akhilesh Yadav, accused the BJP of deceiving the people of Ayodhya under the guise of road widening. “Thousands of houses and shops were demolished, and people received compensation ranging from R25,000 to R1.5 lakh, for shops worth R20-25 lakh. People have incurred losses in lakhs and crores due to this demolition drive. The BJP has done injustice to the residents of Ayodhya.”

He added that the construction of the temple was a welcome move after the Supreme Court’s order and Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya were living peacefully. “However, the BJP only knows politics that divides Hindus and Muslims. Certainly, this time, polarisation is not working. The people of Ayodhya will seek revenge on the BJP,” he said.

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