On Sunday when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's saffron-clad sadhus were rounded up across Uttar Pradesh, three BJP supporters were engaged in an intense discussion at a pan shop late at night in Lucknow where Ashok Singhal, the torchbearer of the Ram temple movement, was detained during the day.
The conversation ended with, "They are hand in glove with each other. Neither Singhal nor Mulayam will ever sustain bullet injuries. Only you and I will die."
As the conversation suggested, there was a trailer in Parliament on Monday. And the issue will soon spill on to the streets, with the VHP demanding that Parliament pass a bill to build the Ram temple. The outfit had earlier set a deadline of October 18, 2013 for the Lok Sabha to pass such a bill, failing which it would launch a "nationwide agitation at one lakh locations across the country and organise a congregation of one lakh Ram bhakts at Ayodhya".
Besides submitting a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee in May 2013, Singhal had written letters to all MPs, soliciting their support for their cause. The Hindutva brigade might now start gheraoing them.
A senior BJP leader said, "We are moving according to our script and the roles assigned to the main characters. The BJP will lend tacit support and take the plunge at local levels like former BJP MLA Laloo Singh did by courting arrest at Ayodhya yesterday."
The game plan is clear. With the SP government at the helm of affairs, the saffron propaganda machinery will work overtime to ignite religious passions by spreading the message that Hinduism is in danger. Pamphlets will be circulated and exhortations will be made by 'sants and mahatmas' during the coming festive season.
Demonstrations and jail bharos will become the order of the day after October 2013, barely a month before assembly polls are due in four states where the BJP has high stakes - Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chhattisgarh. The campaign is certain to continue till the Lok Sabha elections next year.
This time around, however, the VHP is somewhat worried because the public in UP has remained a silent spectator, even in the Awadh region, the nerve-centre of what many Hindutva hardliners describe as their 'second and final phase of the temple movement'. Besides, there have been no fierce reactions or retaliations on the streets.
Instead, people heaved a sigh of relief when Sunday ended without any tension. Shubham Srivastava, 19, who owns a bookstall in the Rakabganj area of Faizabad adjoining Ayodhya, said that evening, "Ayodhya has become a victim of politics. Thankfully, it seems to be all over for now and we can breathe freely."
But Pravin Togadia's gesture while being moved out of Faizabad told a different story. As he vigorously waived his clenched fist, it was clear that the saffron game was hardly over. The chaurasi kosi parikrama had succeeded in resurrecting the temple issue which the Sangh Parivar placed on the backburner after the NDA came to power in 1998.
BJP MP Vinay Katiyar, who was in the forefront of the temple movement before the demolition of the disputed shrine, toed the party line. "The sants and mahatmas will decide their next course of action. They might be having a strategy which I am not aware of."
With the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court ordering the release of senior VHP leaders on Monday, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's government and its forces will remain on tenterhooks while Mulayam Singh Yadav holds the fort in Delhi.