NEW DELHI: If former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee nudged the BJP to the centre stage of the Indian politics, party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani is credited with helping the saffron outfit take a monumental leap to stake claims on corridors of power by fully embracing the Ram temple cause.
Advani infused the idea of hard Hindutva to fuel the BJP’s journey from two MPs in Lok Sabha to 182 in the course of 14 years, culminating in Vajpayee becoming first Prime Minister from the saffron stable.
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“The upper castes in rural areas, who were then with the Congress, flocked to the BJP. The Ram temple agitation helped the BJP cut through the distinctive caste identities and make bases in backward castes as well.
Leaders from the backward castes, including the likes of Kalyan Singh (former Uttar Pradesh chief minister), expanded the party’s electoral depth substantially in quick time,” a top BJP functionary said.“Advani scripted the BJP’s rise from two to 182 in 1998 and the Ram temple issue was at the core of the transformation of the party,” he said.
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The BJP, sticking to the mainstream centrist politics in the stewardship of Vajpayee, had faced an embarrassing electoral verdict in 1984, with the Congress, riding a saffron wave post the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, reducing the saffron party’s Lok Sabha tally to just two members.
The Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) effected a leadership change in the BJP, giving Advani the reigns of the party. The RSS and its affiliate Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had by then begun championing the cause of the Ram temple at Ayodhya.
The change in the leadership brought a handsome tally to the BJP, as it bagged 85 seats in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP and the Left extended outside support to the VP Singh-led government at the Centre.The BJP, in its Palampur meeting in Himachal Pradesh in 1990, adopted the resolution to construct the Ram temple at Ayodhya. That marked the BJP’s unequivocal acceptance of the Hindutva cause.
Afterwards, Advani mounted a Rath (chariot) to launch a yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya, which was cut short in Samastipur in Bihar on the order of then state chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav. By then, Advani had fanned the most militant political Hindutva, drawing in angry youth, already hit by economic slowdown, to the temple cause.