Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s aide and party’s Uttar Pradesh in-charge Amit Shah led the entire top state leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to Ayodhya on Saturday to kick up a political storm and in the process bare its blueprint for 2014 in which, “Ram and his makeshift temple” are again expected to make an impression in the saffron scheme of things.
The BJP leaders are actually taking the storm that Shah’s Ayodhya visit has kicked up as a ‘ good omen’. For the party’s best years in Uttar Pradesh (UP) – 1991 to 1998 – were those it spent chanting Ram, whipping up a religious frenzy that catapulted it to power both in UP as well as at the centre. “We feel that Ayodhya temple issue could again provide much needed oxygen, breathing life into our ‘Congress-mukt-Bharat’ campaign with the Rajnath-led and Modi-inspired BJP expected to hardsell the twin and contrasting models of Hindutva and development before the electorate,” a BJP source said.
A party leader said, that the “Ayodhya visit by Shah was also aimed at uniting the VHP and other constituents of the Sangh Parivar that had been blaming the BJP of shunning its core issues. Shah’s temple commitment message was as much aimed at attracting the party’s core voters as indeed the saffron brigade.” That clearly explains why the BJP thought of holding its party meeting at Ayodhya’s Karsewakpuram – where the saffron rabble-rousers affirm their temple commitment annually on December 6 -- the demolition day – for the first time in nearly a decade. In 1989 the party with a vote share of 7.58% had just 8 Lok Sabha seats from UP.
In the UP assembly, the BJP had 57 MLAs (with vote share 18.11 per cent). That was about the time when the Ayodhya temple movement, propelled by LK Advani’s polarizing rath yatra started to gather steam. The benefits were instant for the saffron brigade under the charismatic Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The BJP jumped 43 seats in 1991 Lok Sabha polls with vote share of 32.82 per cent and came to power on its own in Uttar Pradesh with 221 MLAs (vote share of 33.76 per cent) under the firebrand Kalyan Singh.
Post demolition (1992) the BJP started to lose its way, as its slide that was expedited in no small way due to ego fights between its top leaders in UP. “The subsequent assembly polls of 1993 (177 seats), 1996 (174 seats), 2002 (88 seats), 2007 (51 seats) and 2012 (47 seats) exposed the party’s vulnerability in the absence of an emotive issue and a charismatic leader. In Lok Sabha polls though the BJP in UP continued to do well for a while even after demolition – 1996 (52 seats), 1998 (57 seats) – yet that was basically due to “Vajpayee’s appeal”. The slide that began from 1999 (29 seats) hasn’t stopped since -- 2004 and 2009 (10 seats). Shah’s Ayodhya mission is aimed at checking it. BJP insiders say, it's back to managing contradictions. "So different in their style, Vajpayee and Advani complemented each other. Rajnath and Modi too could sell well.
So can Hindutva and development. That's the basic idea around which the saffron brigade would try to knit together a strategy that helps it reclaim UP and the centre," a BJP leader said.