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UP polls: Ram Temple construction gives BJP edge over SP in Ayodhya

Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh) : In Ayodhya, Bharatiya Janata Party appears to have an edge over its close contender Samajwadi Party (SP), with the construction of the Ram Temple and development of the temple town. "We will vote in the name of development here," Ram Shahare Pandey, a resident of Ayodhya, told ANI. When asked who will do development in Ayodhya, Ram Shahare said, "Yogi government", adding that "cleanliness, beautification of Ayodhya, better parking arrangements, and widening of roads are major issues". "Besides this, construction of Ram temple is also a key factor," said Shahare, clarifying "I will vote for Yogi". Besides Ram temple construction, the other key factors that give an upper hand to BJP in Ayodhya are widening of roads, cleanliness of Saryu ghats and Ram Ki Paidi, better law and order. However, it's not an easy task for the ruling party as a keen fight is being played out between the BJP and SP in Ayodhya, which will see its first big election after the 2019 Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case. The anti-incumbency factor for the ruling BJP may affect the party's vote bank in the region as Ved Prakash Gupta, the current BJP MLA who will face SP's Tej Narayan Pandey (Pavan Pandey), does not enjoy much of a positive reputation among the locals. BJP has fielded Gupta, who according to the locals, rarely visited the Ayodhya people in the last five years. The support for the BJP stems from people's admiration for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and their welfare measures like the free ration and houses under the PM Awas scheme. Samajwadi Party's Brahmin face Tej Narayan Pandey or Pavan Pandey, who won here with a slim margin of 5,405 votes in 2012, is also a popular candidate and he also has a good reputation in public. Ayodhya (earlier Faizabad) district has been the bastion of the BJP since 1991, after the Ram Janmabhoomi movement started in the 1980s, culminating in the demolition of the mosque in 1992. Only in 2012, did Tej Narayan Pandey win from here but the BJP snatched it from SP in 2017. Kumar Kaushal, another resident, said, "Widening of roads, construction of Ram temple, beautification of Ayodhya are among key issues, and Yogi and Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) are the faces for whom we will vote." "Some traders and residents are worried as their shops and homes will be demolished during the widening of roads but the government has assured them of making alternate arrangements before taking any action," Kaushal said. Another shopkeeper Meera Gupta said, "Apart from the demolition of shops, there is no problem and the government is doing development works across Ayodhya". The government's road-widening project in the temple town Ayodhya is facing stiff resistance from traders as a major part of their shops will be broken but they still have faith that the government will do justice with them and plan alternate and better arrangements before starting the project. Thousands of shopkeepers whose shops line the roads surrounding the town and leading to the two main temple attractions - the Hanumangarhi temple and the Ram Janmabhoomi - are angry as their shops were being destroyed for the widening of roads. The government will eventually rehabilitate and compensate them but it is a bitter pill to swallow for the shop owners who have been running these old establishments for generations. They fear that they would be rehabilitated away from prime areas which may impact their economic prospects. They, however, remained divided over whether it will impact the voting pattern. "We will vote for the BJP as there is development all across and the road is being widened. There is a little bit pain for the traders like me as our shops will be demolished during the widening of roads. The government, however, has assured us to make alternate arrangements for our business and that the project will be started only after our consent," Narendra Gupta, a shopkeeper, told ANI. On issues, the trader, whose shops are six-metre part and would be demolished during the widening of roads, Gupta further said, "I expect that the incumbent Yogi government will take the decision in favour of traders." "New airport, railway station, beautification" are among other issues", said Narendra Gupta counting it as the development of the ruling government. Speaking on issues in Ayodhya, a Mahant from Ladli Prasad Temple said, "Akhilesh Yadav is also ours, Mayawati is also ours but Yogi is better than everyone as he did development works all over in the city". "CCTV is everywhere in Ayodhya. Neither a single electricity wire goes over our head as the total wiring is underground. There is a network of roads all around. Ram Ki Paidi has been a selfie point now, which one used to stink. From bus depots to railway station and airport, everything is being constructed on the level of an international public facility," added the Mahant. Noting that Yogi Adityanath has visited Ayodhya nearly 50 times, the Mahant said, "It seems as if Yogi has been made the Chief Minister for this region especially". He added, "Inflation and widening of roads are issues but the government is gambling with the solution to these issues". In the fifth phase of the UP Assembly elections, on February 27, voting will be held in 61 seats across 12 districts. It includes Amethi, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh, Kaushambi, Prayagraj, Sultanpur, Chitrakoot, Barabanki, Ayodhya, Bahraich, Shravasti and Gonda.

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