The Congress may have been vindicated in its claims that the Ayodhya issue should be settled by dialogue or a judicial verdict. But on Thursday, the party began hoping fervently that the Allahabad High Court’s verdict on the title suit does not lead to any political polarisation.
The Congress had to pay a heavy price for the polarisation on the Mandal and Mandir issues and is still trying to recover the ground it lost in the Hindi heartland.
It lost the support of both Hindus and Muslims following the demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya and was reduced to a marginal player in the region.
While the verdict has boosted the morale of the BJP-VHP-RSS, the Sunni Waqf Board plans to appeal against it in the Supreme Court.
Much would depend on the impact of this on political parties across the spectrum.
However, unlike the Sangh affiliates and leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad or Mayawati, the Congress is not in a position to take a stand that is tilted towards one section or another.
More so, on a contentious issue like Ayodhya where a temple is now proposed, has the capacity to raise passions and determine politics.
“The verdict will embolden the BJP to raise the pitch for the temple at the site,” a Congress leader said.
On its part, the Congress has emphasised that the verdict should not be seen as a victory or defeat. “We should all welcome and respect the judgment,” media department chief Janardhan Dwivedi said.
The party’s entire effort would be to keep the debate on the Ayodhya verdict sedate and dispassionate so that it is perceived only as an outcome of a judicial order. But its own response would have to be guided by how the other parties and leaders use or exploit the issue. This applies equally to the manner in which the Muslims proceed.
With Bihar going to polls next month and the crucial Uttar Pradesh assembly elections due in 2012, the Congress is hoping that the Muslim support it had regained in the recent past remains intact.
How will the Congress deal with such situations? If Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi’s recent statements are any indication, the party will repeatedly highlight the bread-and-butter issues that directly impact the lives of the common man.
The Congress-led government has maintained that India has moved on since 1992 and that the India story should not be derailed.
When the verdict was being delivered, the party went into a huddle. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conferred with senior Congress leaders and was also in touch with the party’s UP unit.
A core group meeting, that includes Congress president Sonia Gandhi, also took place to take stock of the situation and reissue an appeal for peace and harmony.