Shinde leaves for Ayodhya; says will address criticism by work


Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde on Saturday evening embarked on the tour of Ayodhya where he will offer prayers to Lord Ram by boarding a flight for Lucknow from Mumbai airport.

He is accompanied by leaders of Shiv Sena, MPs and MLAs, and leaders of ally BJP. Thousands of Shiv Sainiks are expected to reach Ayodhya on Saturday to welcome Shinde.

Anil Agrawal, convenor of Ayodhya Hotels’ Association, said: “The Shiv Sainiks from Maharashtra have booked the hotel rooms online in advance. We are ready to host the guests who are coming from Maharashtra with chief minister Eknath Shinde.”

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It will be Shinde’s maiden visit to Ayodhya after taking charge as Maharashtra chief minister in June 2022 and after the Election Commission recognised the faction led by him as Shiv Sena and allotted it the “bow and arrow” poll symbol.

Shinde will travel to Ayodhya from Lucknow on Sunday afternoon and perform a ‘maha aarti’ at the under-construction Ram temple with others and later at the Sharayu River in the evening. He is also scheduled to visit the ongoing construction of the Ram temple and will address a press conference in Ayodhya on Sunday afternoon. He will return to Mumbai on Sunday night, as per his aides.

The Shiv Sena has booked almost all the hotels, guest houses and dharamshalas to accommodate the Shiv Sena ministers, party MPs and MLAs.

Speaking to reporters at the Mumbai airport, the chief minister said he would respond to criticism of his Ayodhya visit through his work.

“It is good that because of our work, those who never ventured out of their homes are going out to meet people,” he said in a veiled swipe at Shiv Sena (UBT) leader and former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

“Ayodhya is a matter of faith for us. I thank PM Modi for expediting the construction of Ram temple,” said Shinde who shares power with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.

Last November, Shinde and his loyalists paid a “gratitude visit” to the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati.

Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar has slammed the “publicity” around the Ayodhya visit of Shinde and also ridiculed relentless media updates on the latter’s programme there.

“When I offer prayers anywhere, I do not create such publicity. The chief minister is visiting there to seek blessings,” he told reporters.

The former Maharashtra deputy chief minister also said there are pressing issues related to unemployment, crime, and farmers’ distress that require more attention.

A special train carrying activists of Shiv Sena to Ayodhya left Thane railway station on Friday evening amidst slogans of Jai Shri Ram.

(With input agencies)

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