The VHP show in Ayodhya is far from over, but instead of a bang, it has started with a whimper. If Day One proved one thing, it was that the demonstrations lacked the tenacity of yesteryears.
Police personnel guard the route leading to the Naya Ghat, from where the VHP had announced its plans to take out a foot march, in Ayodhya on Sunday. HT Photo
The Marg Darshak Mandal (the guiding body) of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which claims to have decided on the at Allahabad's mega Kumbh, clearly lacked the foresight to work out a contingency plan in case of the arrest of leaders. But more importantly, they had not taken into account an India on the march, where the temple issue has lost its shine.
Going by the track record of the Hindu brigade, they would not give up. To attain the mission of Hindu mobilisation before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the issue must be kept alive and the emotional drama has to continue.
But even in the Hindi heartland, capitalising on mere animated discussions over the arrest of sadhus, might be an uphill task. The indications are that their next move will be announced earlier than expected and December 6, 2013 could be the D-Day for a real showdown. If murmurs are any indication, the Muslims may also come out on the streets that day.
The big gainer in Sunday's show of strength was the Akhilesh government, which had lately been accused of being hand in glove with the VHP.
Today, its cool handling of the issue has earned it more public support than the VHP leaders, who have exposed themselves by raking up the temple issue prior to elections.
The chief minister and especially his father Mulayam Singh Yadav have refrained from making any provocative statements. And so far, the government has managed to maintain peace, despite arrests of leaders like Ashok Singhal, Nritya Gopal Das and Pravin Togadia and Ram Vilas Vedanti.
Politically, Mulayam has consolidated his position among the minorities, though he still can't be very sure of their overwhelming support in a national election when Narendra Modi will be pitted against Rahul Gandhi.
The government has just passed the first acid test. The coming days are going to be crucial.