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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

Ayodhya verdict could be end of vicious politics over Ram temple | Opinion

The BJP was formed in 1980 and the temple movement was launched in 1985. Since then, nine Lok Sabha and nine Vidhan Sabha elections were held in the state.

opinion Updated: Nov 13, 2019 20:35 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
(PTI Photo)
         

Is it the end of politics on the emotive Ram temple issue that returned on the centre stage ahead of almost every election since the early 1990s?

The demolition of the disputed shrine in December 1992 had slowed the growth of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Many recall the first reaction of BJP leader, Lal Krishna Advani, whose Somnath-Ayodhya yatra had largely galvanised public across the country. Soon after the demolition of the shrine, he had said, “ Now we are finished.”

This was reiterated by several BJP-VHP leaders, who believed the existence of the disputed shrine infuriated and united the Hindus. Even Mohd Azam Khan, who was closely associated with the Babri Masjid Action Committee, had earlier said, “The BJP’s decline started after December 6, 1992, and that’s why LK Advani never wanted the mosque to go. They wanted to keep the issue alive.”

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The BJP was formed in 1980 and the temple movement was launched in 1985. Since then, nine Lok Sabha and nine Vidhan Sabha elections were held in the state. The first state assembly was held in 1989 when it won 57 seats in a house of 425 members in undivided UP. Two years later, after laying the foundation stone of the temple, the party’s tally peaked to 221. The mosque was demolished in 1992 and BJP’s tally came down to 177 that year. The party could not form the government. Again, when elections were held in 1996, the party ended with 174, which further fell to 143 in 2002, 51 in 2007 and 47 in 2012.

Once again, some leaders believe that the issue cannot be milked any more in the elections now that the court has decided in favour of the Hindus. After all, it has been an issue of faith for the BJP, which has always accused the opposition of doing politics over it. Others peg their hopes on the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose fusion of religion with aspirations has so far paid rich dividends.

But elections are still far off.

The UP assembly polls will be held in 2022, while the general elections in the country are scheduled for 2024. Thus the BJP will have to keep the temple issue alive till then.

Senior leaders, while dismissing any fears of the issue losing its potency, remember how the emotive issue was built in about five years after its first public mobilisation campaign in 1985. Similarly, the construction of a magnificent temple may easily take another five years to complete with the BJP planning several landmark days before 2022 and 2024.

However, some have noticed the muted response of the majority community over the apex court verdict allowing temple construction at the claimed site.

There could have been two reasons for the subdued response: One, the Supreme Court’s observation the Muslims have been wronged twice in the past has injected a sense of guilt as the title issue remains undecided. Second, the restraint displayed by the hardliners could also be because the Prime Minister and the BJP high command had sent an unequivocal message down the line not to make provocative statements.

Imagine people like Vinay Katiyar and Uma Bharti kept silent instead of raising some slogans. The picture of a beaming Uma Bharti hugging MM Joshi, sitting on the dais, even as the kar sevaks were demolishing the shrine on December 6, 1992, is in the archives of many newspapers.

One assessment is that there will be a studied silence on the issue till the formation of the trust and formulation of the scheme by the Centre. A government official in Uttar Pradesh said the government may take a call on relaxing darshan at the makeshift temple by removing the zigzag, heavy iron barricades through which pilgrims have to walk. But much would depend on the threat perception.

Politically, both the BJP and the opposition see a demise of a potent issue that decided many an election in the past.

Should the BJP worry? None other than Kalyan Singh, at the forefront of the temple movement, said, “We have got the temple, now we must focus on employment.” He has been a witness to the issue losing its traction in election after the demolition.