Hours into his maiden visit to Ram Janmabhoomi, Nitin Gadkari played the Hindutva card, calling for a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya, the town that catapulted his party to national prominence two decades ago.
However, “development” — the BJP chief’s favourite theme — also made an appearance though that too was articulated in the language of “Ram Rajya”.
Clearly, the party was trying to claim ownership of the Ram temple movement once again — perhaps a more venue-based decision than an ideological return to hard Hindutva — but it was also trying to market itself as a governance-based party, even as it attacked the Congress, BSP and SP over corruption.
“It is my conviction that a grand Ram temple will be built here, as the whole nation desires it. Lord Ram is the symbol of our civilisation. This is not a caste or community issue but cuts beyond these,” Gadkari said. “I can never forget this day of my life, when I saw Ram Lalla for the first time.”
He reminded the audience at the rather small but packed ground that Mahatma Gandhi himself had labeled a just, ideal state as Ram Rajya, saying this could be established through the politics of development.
“Roti, kapda and makaan (food, cloth and shelter) for the poor — which Jan Sangh idelogue Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay called Antyodaya — is the same as the idea of Ram Rajya,” he said.
Gadkari laid down what Ram Rajya meant: no cow slaughter, social justice for all and service to the poor.
Leaders Vinay Katiyar, Kalraj Mishra and UP state chief Surya Pratap Shahi made aggressive pleas for a Ram temple.
Shahi expressed satisfaction that “because of the BJP government in UP in 1992, the dhaancha (structure) of slavery was no longer there”, and Mishra exhumed the old slogan, “Ram Lalla hum aayenge, mandir eahin banaayenge (We’ll come and build the temple there).”
Katiyar was the most aggressive: “Babar had forcefully demolished the temple. With the same force we will rebuild it. If we have to go to jail or be hanged, we are willing to brave it.”