Ahead of Lok Sabha elections next year, Saffron outfits have turned the heat demanding the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya. Will it polarise the millions of voters on communal lines even as India faces farm distress and joblessness?
The Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fountainhead of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has launched nine day long Sankalp Rath Yatra beginning from December 1 in the national capital.
Besides the RSS rath yatra another saffron outfit-Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is also holding a massive rally on December 9 at Ramlila Maidan.
Both yatra and rally has clear cut political objectives. First is to mobilise the public sentiments for its demand for construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Second is to pitch for an ordinance on Ram temple. Last month RSS ideologue and Rajya Sabha member Rakesh Sinha had mooted the idea of private members’ bill on the issue.
It is for such reasons public campaign undertaken by RSS is very significant. One, it comes ahead of winter session of Parliament that begins on December 11 and ends on January 5. Second, the result of elections to five assembly states is likely to be out on the day Parliament reopens. The election to assemblies in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana is seen as semi-finals ahead of 2019 general elections.
Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are traditional BJP strongholds with large agrarian and rural base. However, they are facing acute farm distress. Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are among India’s top 10 states on the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking. In all, they represent one-sixth of the country’s voters. The ruling BJP, which bagged all the seats in last Lok Sabha polls in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, is facing strong anti-incumbency.
Rallying for Lord Ram?
For the last one month RSS outfits have been holding brain storming session on how to launch blitzkrieg on Ram temple issue. On November 25, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at a brainstorming session in Nagpur suggested the law must yield to majority religious sentiments. “Though laws are necessary, can society run only on the basis of law? Will you continue to bypass the truth and people’s feelings?” he questioned.
On the same day addressing an election meeting in Alwar, Rajasthan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi predictably sought to lay the blame at the door of the Congress party, suggesting it was adopting delaying tactics in the Supreme Court to create hurdles to the temple’s construction. Modi insinuated that a Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member (senior lawyer Kapil Sibal) was telling the apex court not to hear the case till the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray visited Ayodhya on November 24. He used the occasion to goad the BJP, asking the NDA government to spell out a date when the Ram temple will be constructed. The build-up had started earlier, with Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath changing the name of the district from Faizabad to Ayodhya and promising to build a 201-metre-tall statue of Ram a few miles away to tower over the disputed site.
However yoga guru and tele-evangelist Baba Ramdev warned that the BJP will lose credibility if it fails to get the temple constructed despite being in power at the Centre.
Hearing in 2019
The Ram Mandir (temple) case is presently pending in the Supreme Court. The apex court has said that it will take up the matter in first week of January 2019. The verdict that is in question is Allahabad High Court’s verdict in 2010, wherein it bifurcated 2.77 acres land among the three parties — Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohai Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The ruling BJP is also mulling whether to bring an ordinance on Ram temple as it brought Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill in Parliament. VHP leader Alok Kumar contends that the Bill was passed even when a review petition was listed before the Supreme Court.
The ruling BJP and its right wing outfits are no doubt desperate to bring back Ram temple narrative into mainstream as the tenure of Modi government comes to a close. Will it yield enough political dividends to fan a Modi wave in general election in 2019 for a consecutive tenure is debatable. One thing is certain Ram temple issue will certainly shape the contours of Indian politics in the coming months.