Groundbreaking ceremony for Ram temple may lead to re-orientation of political discourse
After the end of the Mandir-Masjid dispute, the saffron brigade would now re-model its discourse over nationalism making the temple its supreme symbol, says Prof AK Mishra, a political scientist.
LUCKNOW: If the end of one of the lengthiest legal battles over the title suit involving 2.77 acre disputed land in Ayodhya with the Supreme Court ruling on November 9, 2020, marks the climax of one chapter of political narrative woven around Ram temple, another is set to start with PM Narendra Modi laying the first brick for the foundation of the temple of Lord Ram at his birthplace on Wednesday.
The prelude to Hindutva politics linked to temple movement echoing the sentiment of ‘getting Lord Ram librated’ catapulted the BJP from a two-MP party in 1984 to world’s largest political outfit in 2020, is set to be followed by the emergence of a discourse re-oriented to benefit the saffron brigade as a fulfilment of a long-standing electoral promise.
Perhaps in the long-drawn battle for temple and mosque between the two communities, Wednesday groundbreaking ceremony will be the first moment fraught with no controversy especially the one laced with a flavour of communal politics.
As Ayodhya is set to move beyond Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri masjid dispute, both Hindu and Muslim communities are now vying for the development of the temple town as the only agenda.
However, when looked back, the BJP, whose political identity is attributed to the temple politics, has had a tumultuous journey during the last 40 years. Undoubtedly, the party always tried to link the temple issue with a strong nationalistic Hindutva outlook but other political players also used the issue for their political benefit.
However, political pundits feel that now the saffron brigade will re-orient its strategy to keep the issue alive with a different flavour. “After the end of mandir-masjid dispute and temple set to take shape, the saffron brigade would now re-model its discourse over nationalism making the temple its supreme
symbol,” says Prof AK Mishra, a political scientist.
The history reflects that it is not that only BJP which professed its ideology openly in favour of the majority community by pushing temple politics, even Congress also tried its hand at it. When Rajiv Gandhi took over as country’s PM in 1984, BJP along with Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) gave momentum and more voice to its core temple issue.
As the BJP was becoming more and more vocal about it, the Congress, despite having an overwhelming majority in Parliament, found it difficult to counter the BJP narrative. It rather boarded the boat and facilitated the unlocking of the temple (disputed) in 1986 triggering a new trail in the history of Ram temple movement.
“It was a certain move by the then Congress government to capitalise on the growing Hindu sentiment,” says Prof AK Mishra of political science department of Lucknow University.
Subsequently, the political desperation of Rajiv Gandhi to return to power as he was losing the charm and popularity owing to Bofors scam and mishandling of other issues such as Punjab, Kashmir and Sri Lanka led him to allow ‘shilanyas’ by the VHP in Ayodhya. It was the time of 1989 general elections and Congress tried to reap the benefit of the surge of Hindu sentiment.
But due to the realignment of political forces against Congress, it failed to get expected results in 1989. Subsequently, the regional forces under the satraps such as Mulayam Singh Yadav started making a mark in state politics. He used temple issue to polarise Muslims in his favour by playing their messiah.
There was a time when Mulayam Singh was known by the moniker --‘Mualana Mulayam’ in the 1990s. This led to the emergence of a new political equation comprising Muslim-Dalit combination which still has its relevance in the political landscape of UP.
Now with Prime Minister Narendra Modi all set to reach Ayodhya on Wednesday, the focus on the issue is back. Will it mark an end to the Ram Mandir politics or open up new roads for the Hindutva ideology -- one that further empowers its electoral-political gains to saffron discourse is yet to be seen.
The common sentiment in the BJP is to capitalise on the issue further. The party may look for ways to build a mass emotional connect, with the construction of the temple. An indication of this strategy can already be seen on the ground on Ayodhya in the form of grand preparations for the Bhoomi Pujan on Wednesday.