The Chinese idiom, ‘riding on the back of the tiger but can’t get off’, best describes the dilemma of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) on the highly inflammable issue of constructing the promised Ram temple in Ayodhya.
It appears the BJP is wriggling out of its commitment of resolving the contentious issue through legislation after it formed the government at the Centre. Instead, it has now sought refuge in a court decision which may not happen so soon.
The emotive issue is thus kept simmering on the fringes, primarily to pander to hardliners who are not amused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan “sabka saath, sabka vikas”.
Earlier, the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had set up the Ayodhya cell in 2004 for a negotiated settlement to the issue. The Shankaracharya of Kanchi and Dalai Lama were also involved. Even late Prime Minister Chandrashekhar had made a futile attempt to resolve the knotty issue.
That the Ram temple is not a priority issue anymore for the BJP and its government can be gauged from the fact that seers associated with the Ayodhya movement have been waiting for an appointment with the Prime Minister.
Media in-charge of the Rama Janma Bhumi Nyas Sharad Sharma said they have yet to hear from the PMO.
With the elections round the corner, several groups including the Shiv Sena, VHP and RSS are going to step up their demand for the resolution of the dispute.
They were enthused by Modi’s chant of ‘Jai Sri Ram’, both before and after his speech at Lucknow’s Aishbagh Ramleela grounds on Dussehra.
Laxman Acharya, president of BJP’s Kanshi region, said, “The country was celebrating Dussehra - the victory of good over evil. It was an expression of his faith in Ram on the pious day. It will be wrong to give political overtone to an obvious expression of faith.”
Over the years, the party has made subtle changes to the issue in its manifesto.
The manifesto for the 2014 general election mentioned a line on the temple on the last page: “(The) BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution to facilitate the construction of Rama temple in Ayodhya.”
In contrast, the party’s vision document of 2004 had a more clear formula: “The BJP reaffirms its commitment to the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya…As Maryada Purushottam, Ram is an inspiring cultural symbol of India. His birthplace in Ayodhya is also associated with the religious sentiments of crores of Hindus….”
The fact is, the party has silently dropped its one-time catchphrase ‘Jai Sri Ram’ from public discourse after it lost its political potency over the years since the demolition of the Ayodhya shrine on December 2, 1992.
In numbers, the BJP’s highest score of 221 in 1991 had come down to 88 in 2002. The downslide continued till the 2012 assembly elections. The party resurrected in a big way in 2014 on Modi’s development plank.
That the Jai Sri Ram slogan is not their catchphrase was evident from Amit Shah’s Kanpur rally on October 14 where he raised the slogan of “Bhagwan Gautam Buddh ki Jai’.
From Ram to Buddha, the BJP has come a long way.