Former Gujarat State Minister for Home Amit Shah (C) speaks to the media representatives at the Bharatiya Janata Party Gujarat headquarters in Ahmedabad.
After peddling the Narendra Modi development model to the country in recent months, the BJP on Saturday returned to another favourite topic — the Ram temple.
In Ayodhya for a 2014 poll strategy meeting, the saffron party’s new UP in-charge Amit Shah — a Modi man — visited the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi site where he declared: “People in the country desire a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya. We are committed to it. I prayed that we together build a grand temple here as soon as possible and restore Lord Ram to his rightful place.”
His words were endorsed by party president Rajnath Singh, who said in Kolkata: “I don’t know what he said. But if he said so, what’s wrong in it? All Hindus want a Ram temple there, Muslims wants a mosque there. The matter is in court. But if a temple comes up, we would all be happy.”
Before the meeting started in Ayodhya, the BJP’s UP chief Laxmikant Bajpai remarked: “The demolition of the Babri masjid was the first step. That has been accomplished. Now we pray to Lord Ram for building the temple.”
Coming out of the makeshift Ram Lala temple, Shah also said, “Our agenda is to see the country free of the Congress. Our agenda is su-shaashan (good governance).”
Regaining lost ground in UP, with its 80 Lok Sabha constituencies, is crucial for the BJP. Its best years in UP (1991-98) were those spent chanting Ram and whipping up a religious frenzy that catapulted it to power both in the state and at the Centre.
“The temple issue could breathe life into our ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ campaign with the Rajnath-led and Modi-inspired BJP expected to hardsell Hindutva and development to the electorate,” a BJP source said. Another added: “Shah’s Ayodhya visit is also aimed at uniting the Sangh Parivar constituents, which have been accusing the BJP of shunning its core issues.”
Cranking up the religious rhetoric, Bajpai said: “(The ruling) Samajwadi Party’s process of withdrawing cases of terror attacks accused is Muslim appeasement.”
Asserting that the BJP’s new-found mandir pitch wouldn’t influence the elections, Congress leader and external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said, “Why didn’t they do it (build the temple) when their government was at the Centre? This matter is before the Supreme Court. One can move ahead only after getting its orders. People have become wise now and they won’t be misled.”
“Either legal route or compromise can resolve the temple issue. There is no third option,” said former ally and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav. On Shah’s remarks, he said, “People keep making comments.”
The Left was more critical with the CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta saying Shah’s words exposed the “real and utterly communal, chauvinistic agenda” of the BJP. “This will only get more and more prominence with the rise of Narendra Modi.”