By Poonam I Kaushish
Politicians are an unholy lot! They take a “holier than thou attitude” on anything and everything be it religion or riots, scums or scams. All bhaktas of power and fanatics when it comes to protecting their power bases. Nothing stands testimony to this better than the “jihad” unleashed over Ayodhya by the Sangh Parivar.
It started last October when the UP Government requested the Supreme Court to hear urgently 16 appeals challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid 2.77 acres land dispute title case (divided equally between Ram Lulla, Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara) which deferred it to 4 January.
An upset Hindutva Brigade went to town demanding the Government pass an ordinance, which was turned down by Prime Minister Modi who ruled it out asserting, “Any decision could only be taken after the completion of the judicial process”. But the Court played party popper again for the Sangh Parivar when in 30-seconds it differed the case to 10 January to fix the next hearing schedule.
The timing of the rising clamour for a temple at Ayodhya raises questions: What is the urgency? Why is Ayodhya important for the BJP in its electoral fight? Why do Sangh Parivar’s cahoots raise the ante come election time? Primarily because since 1989 the Sangh story has been the same, to make the Ayodhya agitation a recurring theme and make political capital out of it to suit their electoral ends.
From the shilanyas in 1989 the Sangh Parivar has used Ayodhya as a rallying point. While the VHP and the Bajrang Dal equated it with nationalism and described it as the core of Indian consciousness, Advani’s Rath Yatra took the monument out of its religious context and gave it a potent political thrust for installing Hindu nationalism as India’s dominant political credo. Followed by the kar seva and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
Plainly, the Saffron Sangh promises to start temple construction just a few months before any election is due. It did this in the 1991 elections wherein its Hindutva card catapulted the BJP from two MPs in 1984 to 91 Parliament members with the Party’s graph steadily going up with every consecutive election, both at the Centre and the States.
In the 1996 UP Assembly elections it emerged as the single largest party. During the 1999 Lok Sabha poll, it reiterated its promise to start temple construction by 2000. Ditto in 2004 and 2009, today it has 273 MPs in the Lok Sabha and lords over UP.
But like the proverbial story of the boy who cried wolf, the issue is beginning to lose its potency as upper caste Hindus are getting disillusioned and many are even thinking of going back to the Congress while a new generation considers it a non-issue and instead plums for jobs, better economic standard and quality of life. Alongside with the Supreme Court ordering maintenance of status quo at the disputed site, the Sangh Parivar is slowly realizing the issue could become one of diminishing returns. Yet, the core doesn’t want to let go.
The Ayodhya issue’s return to public discourse with a roar in recent weeks is paradoxical given that the BJP won the 2014 election on the promise of providing achhe din, employment, corruption free governance and a New India.
However, post the recent reverses in three heartland States along-with the aam aadmi’s growing disenchantment the BJP’s desperation is understandable and makes it imperative for it to sell another dream and come up with vote-catching an out-of-the-box formula for the forthcoming general elections. As a victory probable a year back, today seems uncertain. And what better than to fall back on its tried and tested ‘temple at Ayodhya’ card where its expertise lies which it hopes will consolidate Hindu votes to propel it to India’s Raj gaddi again.
Any wonder the RSS has been at the forefront with Chief Mohan Bhagwat stating, “Only a Ram temple will be constructed in Ayodhya.” Added the VHP for good measure, “Hindus cannot wait ’till eternity’ for the Court’s decision.” A sure giveaway that the Saffron brigade finds itself caught between a rock and hard place if it has to choose between the Government and furthering its movement.
While the currently dominant pro-Modi group merely wants to go about business-as-usual and only create a mahaul (atmosphere) for constructing a temple, the hardcore elements are disillusioned by this dragging of feet as many in the Parivar believe the Sangh cannot afford to allow any weakening of the movement.
Consequently, raising the pitch on Ayodhya has to be seen in this backdrop. If it comes to choosing between the Government and strengthening its organization, perhaps the RSS will always opt for the latter, notwithstanding it has benefited from the Centre’s decisions and policies.
For the BJP, Ayodhya is a symbol of its do-or-die battle for retaining power at the Centre as 80 Lok Sabha seats are from UP and it hopes Bhagwan Ram will oblige. For a defeat at the hustings could end its dream of ruling India, making it Congress mukt and sound the death knell of its political survival. Remember, its catapultion as the single largest Party has primarily been by playing the Hindutva card and pandering to the majority Hindu vote bank.
What next? Time seems to be running out for the Modi Government as the Saffron Sangh hollers for the temple at Ayodhya begin to take shape. Therefore, the Hindutva Brigade seems to have fallen back on the time-tested formula and timed its temple movement cleverly to make the mandir a core issue around which sentiments can be polarised yet again.
The RSS and the VHP have planned dharam sansad in every Lok Sabha constituency and the VHP is preparing for a nationwide door-to-door campaign to gather support for the early construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya. Given the issue has always been central to their faith-based politics of majoritarianism.
Bringing Ayodhya rhetoric back on centre-stage might help salvage some morsels of credibility among cadres and traditional voters in the build up to the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. But will Modi’s NDA Government rise to take the Sangh’s bait? Already a BJP Rajya Sabha MP has spoken of his intent to introduce a Private Member’s Bill to build the temple because “Ram temple is a top priority of Hindu society”.
In sum, with the mosque removed from the disputed site, what remains is a few acres of vacant land mired in legal dispute. Is the Modi Government ready to take a gamble on Ayodhya despite opposition from some of the BJP allies and friends? The Party is caught in a bind. Will faith exact its revenge? For now, it is giving the BJP a taste of its own complexities. Real politik is indeed full of ironies. It remains to be seen whether Ayodhya will be NaMo and the Sangh’s nemesis or will they attain political nirvana in the upcoming poll. —- INFA