Vinay Sahasrabuddhe. . Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Sep 13 : Ahead of Assembly polls in four states, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has gone out full throttle to bring Lord Ram into the popular discourse through the use of soft power.

Indian Council for Cultural Centre (ICCR) chief Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, also the BJP vice-president, plans to organise the Ramayana Festival in three cities -- New Delhi, Lucknow and Pune.

While the ICCR claims it's a festival to showcase "cultural interpretations of the epic on the stage", that Home Minister and BJP President Amit Shah will inaugurate it shows the importance the BJP attaches to this event. "Ram and Ramayana are important for us (BJP). It has always been. There's no second thought about it", admitted Sahasrabuddhe in an interview to IANS.

It's the fifth edition of Ramayana Festival, which was started in 2015, soon after Narendra Modi swept to power at the Centre. The first edition was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi.

According to Sahasrabuddhe, there is a cultural bond that unites many nations and sSome of them are even not from the Southeast. Ramayana, the epic, is a commonality between Fiji, Trinidad, Cambodia, Indonesia and many more countries. "It's the duty of the ICCR as the biggest institution of soft power to project that," he said.

Interestingly, though the Ramayana Festival won't be held in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, for the first time an international delegation will visit the city.

Sahasrabuddhe confirmed that the team would visit 'Ram Lalla', the idol at the disputed site whose ownership is under the legal scrutiny of the Supreme Court and the matter is being heard on a daily basis.

"It is obvious, they want to have a darshan of Ram Lalla", the BJP MP said.

Taking a dig at the Congress without naming it, Sahasrabuddhe said, "Ram has always been in the popular discourse. We don't need to bring him in. What's different is that previous governments were apologetic about its approach. We are not." Interestingly, the delegation also includes Islamic nations, like Bangladesh and Indonesia. It will embolden the BJP's stand that Lord Ram is as much in the global cultural milieu as it's a matter of faith.

This grand celebration across India of an epic that revolves around Lord Ram can be seen as a big push by the BJP, which is eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court order on the disputed land in Ayodhya.

Both Hindus and Muslims claim right over the contentious piece of land where an idol of Lord Ram is offered prayers, but under strict guidelines and security watch, since the case is sub judice and involves sentiments of both sides.

Recently, the apex court took up the hearing on a daily basis after both sides failed to reach a consensus during arbitration. As crores await the verdict, the visuals of foreign delegations, including some from Islamic ones, paying a visit to the disputed land will be the endorsement the BJP needs ahead of the Assembly polls in four states.

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