poll position

As BJP talks of a Ramayan Museum at Ayodhya, sidelined Vinay Katiyar reminds party of Ram temple

A senior party leader points to the contradiction in the BJP wanting to revive the Ayodhya issue ahead of the UP elections but continuing to ignore Katiyar.

On Tuesday, around the time Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma was inspecting the site for a proposed Ramayan Museum in Ayodhya, Vinay Katiyar, another Bharatiya Janata Party parliamentarian, hit out at the Narendra Modi government, calling its initiative to build the museum in the temple town a “lollipop”.

“We should be trying to build a Ram temple,” Katiyar told reporters in Delhi. “We won’t be happy with this lollipop.”

He added: “Wherever I go in Ayodhya, saints ask me when the Ram temple will be built. It is good that I didn’t go (to Ayodhya) today.”

Although Katiyar, a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha and a resident of Ayodhya, has been sidelined ever since Narendra Modi took centre stage in the party, his comments on the Ram temple issue cannot be brushed aside by the saffron outfit ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections since he was the face of the violent Ayodhya movement in the 1990s.

Sidelined leader

Katiyar was at the forefront of the Ayodhya movement since 1984, when the Bajrang Dal was formed as the militant youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad with the objective to mobilise Hindus for the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site.

Katiyar’s stature in the Sangh Parivar grew further during the 1990s when the movement catapulted the BJP to power in Uttar Pradesh. Even during the following years, the BJP leadership used to consult him on every major issue related to the Ram temple and Ayodhya.

However, for the last three years, Katiyar has been living in total oblivion, completely cut off from the leadership. Not only was he kept out of the campaign during the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, the party went to the extent of fielding his arch rival, Lallu Singh, from Faizabad constituency, which Ayodhya is a part of.

“It would be stupid to pretend that everyone is happy in the party,” said a senior BJP leader, who is sidelined himself, and is considered to be sympathetic to Katiyar. “Katiyar could not have let this opportunity go. And why should he? On the one hand the party wants to revive the Ayodhya issue and on the other it is keeping Katiyar on the margins. There is a huge contradiction in it, and that is bound to come out in public.”

‘Ram temple for votes’

Mahesh Sharma’s trip to Ayodhya on Tuesday was expected to take forward the electoral plank that Narendra Modi set forth for the party on October 11 when he repeatedly shouted “Jai Shri Ram” – the central slogan of the Sangh Parivar’s Ayodhya movement – during his Dussehra speech in Lucknow.

Although Sharma insisted that the proposed museum – which will be built just 15 km from the disputed site – was not a political gimmick and was intended to boost tourism, the BJP could not hide the fact that it is desperate to rake up the Ram temple issue ahead of the Assembly elections in the state early next year.

“Ayodhya becomes active at the time of every election and then the BJP forgets it,” said Acharya Satyendra Das, the chief priest of the makeshift temple of Lord Ram at the disputed site in Ayodhya, over the phone. “This time the BJP is even more desperate to activate Ayodhya because Modiji has nothing to show to the people. He could not keep any of the promises he made during the Lok Sabha elections and doesn’t know how to face voters of UP.”

Moreover in Uttar Pradesh, there are several BJP leaders who are sulking and many who feel that what is being done in the run up to the state elections is much below their expectations. That is why the party has struggled to finalise a chief ministerial candidate, and that is also now coming in the way of the BJP’s bid to firm up a winnable poll plank for itself.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.