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Babri demolition case: Blow to Advani, but BJP stands to gain from SC order

The Supreme Court has revived the criminal conspiracy charge against BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and nine others in the Babri mosque demolition case.

analysis Updated: Apr 20, 2017 07:41 IST
DK Singh
DK Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Babri masjid demolition,Ayodhya,Ram temple
In this photograph taken on December 6, 1992, a Hindu mob attacks the wall of the 16th century Babri masjid in Ayodhya. The Supreme Court on Wednesday revived criminal conspiracy charges against BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and nine others in the case. (AFP file)

Wednesday’s Supreme Court order restoring criminal conspiracy charges against LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti in the 1992 Ayodhya Babri masjid demolition case might be a blow to these leaders individually, but the BJP is unlikely to be unduly worried about its political costs.

For one, the trial-- to be completed in two years as per the apex court’s directions-- will keep the Hindutva pot boiling, not an undesirable situation for a party that blended it with development to win a series of elections over the past three years. If the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya alienated a section of people including the middle class and liberals from the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought them back into the party fold with his persona and development narrative.

A demoralised Opposition is unlikely to go over the top to attack the BJP on the Ayodhya issue. Rattled by electoral reverses, the Congress has been on the defensive and is making a conscious effort to get rid of the minority appeasement tag the BJP has successfully attached to it.

It was evident from its silence on the controversy over singer Sonu Nigam’s remarks about the use of loudspeakers for azaan (call for prayers from the mosque). Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, broke this silence on Tuesday, tweeting, “Azaan is an essential ingredient for namaz. In today’s day of modern technology, loudspeakers aren’t.”

As per the opposition party’s assessment, as articulated by senior leader AK Antony at one of the party meetings post-2014 Lok Sabha polls, the perception about the party’s minority appeasement policies had cost it dearly in the elections. His opinion has found many takers in the party. And that explains the zeal with which the Congress has started publicising vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visits to temples.

With most of the opposition parties on the defensive on Hindutva and wary of raising issues that could be used by their political rivals to project them as anti-Hindu, the BJP can only gain from a public discourse on the Ayodhya issue, which is likely to continue for the next two years, leading to the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

Whatever might be the court verdict after the completion of the trial, the BJP is likely to only gain. If the charges against senior BJP leaders are proved true, many might be tempted to see in it a validation of the party’s Hindutva credentials. But if they are absolved by the court, the saffron party would project it as vindication of its innocence and berate the opposition parties for seeking to malign its secular credentials.

In the immediate context though, the BJP and Narendra Modi will have to take some tough calls, which are rather administrative in nature. The Prime Minister has to decide whether he wants to retain a minister, Hindutva mascot Uma Bharti, who will be facing a court trial. Another question confronting him and the ruling party is about the propriety of keeping Kalyan Singh in the Jaipur Raj Bhawan. The Supreme Court has said that since he enjoys Constitutional immunity in his capacity as Governor, he can be tried after he ceases to be in office. Modi has put a high premium on morality in public life and he might be in a dilemma over his next course of action in Singh’s case.

First Published: Apr 19, 2017 12:45 IST