Even as this traditional hotbed of politics was specially included in his itinerary during his second whirlwind tour of Uttar Pradesh [ Images ], Bhartiya Janata Party's star campaigner and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi [ Images ] on Sunday very cleverly skirted the Aloha temple issue.
While the saffron crowds that had converged in Faizabad from different corners of the state to listen to him, the man who has acquired the status of BJP's big-time 'Hindutva' torch-bearer chose to devote much of his 45-minute long speech on "development", in a place barely 8 km from the contentious Ramjanmbhoomi-Babri Masjid site.
Apparently in view of Modi's image as a Hindu hardliner, the local organisers had sought to portray him in that very light. No wonder that a number of banners were emboldened with a newly coined slogan -- "Naya savera, chali hai aandhi ; Narendra Modi aur Varun Gandhi [ Images ]" (A new morning and a storm; Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi).
Yet, Modi refrained from even touching upon the temple issue that had deeply influenced the political destiny of the country for over two decades now.
The only reference that he made to Ram was by asking the crowds, "Do you think the people sitting in power in New Delhi [ Images ] should have the discretion to decide where Ram was born?"
He said, "Wasn't Ram born here and wasn't he married to Sita?" he asked, while adding that, "By raising such questions, some people were trying to question the very existence of Ram."
He then swiftly turned his attention to development, and said, "Development alone is the key to success" and urged people to focus their energies in that direction.
"You must rise against the politics of caste and the vote politics of appeasement, this is the time for propagating the politics of development," he called out amidst crowds that went into intermittent cries of "Jai Shree Ram!"
And citing his own success story on development, he said, "Today you can see how the cotton-grower in Gujarat was thriving, while the same cotton-farmer was committing suicide in some other states."