Ayodhya verdict will bolster BJP’s Hindu credentials

Yet the party would do well to remember that the temple card has been subject to the law of diminishing returns in the elections held after the Babri demolition in 1992

A man holds an image of Hindu Lord Ram during the news conference of Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in New Delhi, India November 9, 2019. (REUTERS)

Mohanrao Bhagwat, the sarsanghachalak (supremo) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) betrayed no emotion as he read out his piece on the Ayodhya verdict today. The judgement, that paved the way for the fulfilment of a long-standing goal of the Sangh fraternity, should not be celebrated as a triumph nor denigrated as a loss, he said. 

Bhagwat’s deadpan delivery of the message concealed a far deeper message and that was, under a majority government led by its political progeny, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its agenda was being realised with clockwork efficiency, with nary a misstep so far. Bhagwat and the RSS must have drawn a deeper sense of satisfaction from the fact that since 2014, the Sangh worked with its heart and soul for the BJP in mostly every election (Delhi 2015 was an exception) and on their part, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his home minister and the BJP president, Amit Shah, have not let them down so far. 

Although the temple, when it comes into being, will be the result of a long-awaited legal judgement, the weight of public opinion and pressure cannot be underplayed. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s agitations—usurped by the BJP later when it realised the political potential of their success—went through peaks and troughs. But what the campaign achieved was to kindle a pan-Hindu consciousness that accepted the “parivar’s” messages that history and subjugation by the “invaders” had suppressed generations of Hindus, destroyed their religious symbols, particularly the temples, and reduced them to being second-class citizens subservient to a clutch of rulers. These were messages that were created and enlarged more by myths and imagination than documented histories but as political issues, they worked in the BJP’s favour.

Full Coverage of Supreme Court's verdict on Ayodhya

From the Centre and the BJP’s standpoints, the unanimous verdict has helped by allowing for a Trust to be created to oversee the temple’s construction. The Trust has a precedent in a similar methodology that was adopted to re-build a Shiva temple at Somnath, close to Veraval in Gujarat’s Gir-Somnath district, from where BJP veteran LK Advani embarked on his milestone Ram Rath Yatra in 1990 to spread the word that the Ram temple must be similarly raised on the site of the Babri mosque. 

The proposed Trust will ensure that the warring factions of the Hindu clergy will stay in the background, giving the BJP and the Centre the leeway required to undertake a major project. 

Since Ayodhya is in the heart of Uttar Pradesh, presently ruled by the BJP, the party’s calculation must be that the optics contained in the construction of a “magnificent” temple for Ram will be enough and more of a counter against anti-incumbency in the 2022 UP polls. Who better to purvey the larger message of “success” credibly than the saffron-robed CM Yogi Adityanath, whose spiritual guru, Mahant Avaidyanath, was an author of the temple “movement”?

But the temple card has been subject to the law of diminishing returns in the elections held after the Babri demolition in 1992. If the BJP won UP and the heartland in recent times, it was thanks to the “Modi magic”, an underlying theme of Hindu-Muslim divisiveness and certain social welfare schemes and not Ayodhya. The full-throated propaganda of the reading down of Article 370 and the NRC made little impact in the Haryana and Maharashtra elections, empirical evidence suggests. At best, the BJP can market it as a component of an overall Hindutva package and as a demonstration of Modi’s resolve to implement the core ideological agenda.

 

 

If the Supreme Court passed the verdict unanimously, there is consensus too in the political spectrum that the temple cannot be opposed. Those who spoke out against it in the past or were too clever by half realised to their grief that Ayodhya will not countenance shades of grey. You have to be pro-temple or anti-temple and nobody will risk dissenting, at least not in the current ambience.

(Radhika Ramaseshan is a Delhi based political analyst and columnist)

 

The views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)