The Ayodhya title suit verdict on Thursday has enthused the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, leaving its ally JD (U) somewhat rattled and other parties groping for words to react.
BJP chief spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad’s post-verdict remark that all sides ought to come forward to build a Ram temple at the Ayodhya site under litigation appeared to indicate the temple was back on the party’s agenda.
“For all the talk of restraint, BJP leaders are convinced it will benefit the party electorally. Sangh parivar bodies may take up a surreptitious temple campaign. This may create problems for the JD(U),” a top BJP leader said.
Political strategist P.K. Sinha agrees. He said: “What these remarks indicate is that the BJP is expecting a consolidation of Hindu votes on the back of the court judgment, which it has read to have gone in favour of the Hindu stand.”
While BJP state president C P Thakur was not available for comment, the party’s state campaign committee chairman, R.K. Sinha, endorsed the Ravi Shankar Prasad line that the temple issue was a matter of faith and all concerned ought to respect the verdict.
P.K. Sinha said that the verdict could impact voting in next month’s Bihar assembly elections, especially in many of the 47 seats being covered by the first phase of polling on October 21.
“This may prove particularly true for 23 assembly seats in four districts in which Muslims have a substantial presence — namely Kishanganj, Purnia, Araria and Katihar. Any BJP-oriented consolidation of votes will lead to a counter-reaction among Muslims. How this scenario will pan out in terms of votes is anybody’s guess,” Sinha told HT.
It is this perceived uncertainty that caused RJD president Lalu Prasad, a leading claimant to the secular electoral space, not to offer any reaction to the judgment. He wanted time to study it and took the middle-of-the-road position that all parties ought to maintain peace and had the option of going in appeal. RJD spokesman Ram Kripal Yadav too declined to comment.
Bihar Congress leaders had little to add to the party’s national spokesman Janardan Dwivedi’s position that all sides ought to maintain peace and the option of moving to a higher court was open.
Many here believe the judgment had come at a particularly inconvenient time for the ruling JD(U), which has been assiduously cultivating Muslims.
This BJP line enunciated by Prasad held out the threat of straining the JD(U)-BJP alliance at a time when the two parties were hard pressed to seal a seat-sharing agreement. “The fear in the JD (U) is if there is a post-verdict polarisation, some JD (U)-minded Muslims might experience clergy pressure to look elsewhere,” said a senior JD (U) leader.
But JD (U) MP and national spokesman Shivanand Tiwari ruled out any adverse fallout. “It’s a please-all verdict. There is no loser or winner and any aggrieved party is free to go into appeal.”