With work on the Ram temple in Ayodhya heading for completion next year, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is planning to develop the town as a prominent pilgrimage destination ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Widening of roads leading to the Ram Janmbhoomi site, installing CCTVs across the town, and fast-tracking the upcoming Maryada Purshottam Shri Ram International Airport — these are among a string of projects planned by the state government as it aims to turn Ayodhya into a “world-class, model town” by 2024.
According to sources, 235 development projects have been proposed for Ayodhya in the vision document drafted by the government for the development of the town. Of these, at least 71 are priority projects that are being directly monitored by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, they said.
Within a month of coming back to power, CM Adityanath, in a meeting on April 20 with officials of the departments of Tourism and Religious Affairs, directed the widening of key roads leading up to the temple site — the Janmbhoomi path from Sahadatganj Naya Ghat road, which is at present a single lane with shops on either side, will be four-laned. The ‘Bhakti Path’ from Ayodhya main road to the temple site via Hanumangarhi will also be widened.
Last year, Union minister Nitin Gadkari had declared the route of the ’84-kos yatra’, a pilgrimage route that covers five districts including Ayodhya, as a National Highway. Sources said that while work has started on the stretch of the yatra route that falls in Ayodhya, it’s a time-intensive project as the proposed highway will run through areas within the town as well as the river embankment.
In another meeting, the CM directed that an ayurveda college and hospital must come up in Ayodhya in two years.
The CM also called for regular performances of the Ram Lila in Ayodhya as part of a cultural package to attract tourists. Since 2017, the Adityanath government has been holding grand Deepotsav celebrations in the town every year.
Two parking lots are being developed near the Ram temple construction site. Ghats are expected to be beautified and eight water bodies (kunds) are being rejuvenated. Restoration of historical and heritage buildings will also be carried out.
With pilgrim footfall set to increase and more VVIP movements expected within Ayodhya once the Ram temple is completed, the Adityanath government recently decided to install CCTV cameras across the town. The government has also decided to set up a battalion of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and a unit of the state police’s elite Special Task Force (STF) in Ayodhya.
Factoring in the expected rush of tourists, both domestic and international, the state’s Civil Aviation Department earlier this month signed a lease agreement with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for transfer of 318 acres for the upcoming Maryada Purshottam Shri Ram International Airport in Ayodhya district. The CM directed officials to ensure that the airport becomes functional by the time the Ram temple is completed next year.
With an eye on climate goals, the plan, sources said, is to develop Ayodhya as a ‘Climate Smart City’. The state government has also drafted an ‘Ayodhya Vision 2047’, as part of which the town will be developed as a clean, pollution-free, water-secure space. In a review meeting of ‘Ayodhya Vision’ earlier this month, officials were directed to promote the use of pollution-free electric vehicles and electric buses in the city.
The thrust on Ayodhya as a “world-class” destination is part of the BJP’s ideological push centred on the Ram temple and is being done with an eye on the 2024 elections.
Months after the Supreme Court verdict in November 2019 that handed over 2.77 acres of the disputed land to a trust set up for the construction and management of a Ram temple, in August 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the temple.
The temple is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, a few months ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections.
Before the 2022 Assembly polls, leaders from Opposition parties, including the SP, BSP, Congress and AAP, had visited Ayodhya to take part in religious activities and to hold political rallies and campaigns.
BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Misra had last year kickstarted the party’s Brahmin outreach programme from Ayodhya after offering prayers at Hanuman Garhi and the Ram Lalla temple.
In the 2022 Assembly elections, the BJP had won from Ayodhya seat but with a reduced margin — from a gap of 50,440 votes in 2017 to 19,990 votes in 2022. The BJP won three of the five Assembly seats in the district while the SP won two.