Just as the Supreme Court’s hearing of the Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid title suit enters its final leg, the Sangh Parivar has flagged off its “Ram Rajya Rath Yatra” from Ayodhya. Backed by the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, affiliated to the RSS, it would pass through six states over the next 41 days before ending at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. The date for the final hearing of the land dispute case happens to be March 14.
Ram temple may be an emotive religious issue with millions of Lord Ram’s devotees. But it is simply an electoral issue for the BJP and its parent Sangh Parivar. Between mid-1980s and early 1990s, the Sangh and its allies like VHP used the temple issue to catapult BJP onto the national scene and it succeeded in its gameplan. It was LK Advani’s Ram Rath Yatra that once transformed BJP into the national alternative to the liberal Congress. The Sangh game this time around is to somehow manage a second round of victory for Narendra Modi, who is their first out and out committed hardcore Hindutva practitioner Prime Minister.
Also, the BJP understands that Modi’s vikas plank has been badly exposed. The results of the Gujarat polls and the Rajasthan by-elections have also come as a substantial jolt for the party. As the Prime Minister has consistently failed to deliver on his electoral promises and instead has been repeatedly trying to deflect attention to the Congress and its past leadership, people have started getting tired of hearing the same things for four years coupled with zero delivery on promises. Narendra Modi government had come to power promising people ‘minimum government, maximum governance.’ But four years down, it has become ‘maximum government, minimum governance’. Also, the scores of scams, ranging from GSPC to Rafale, from Srijan to Vyapam, have exposed the hollowness of Modi’s ‘Na Khaunga, Na Khane Dunga’ claim. The rising prices of petrol and diesel, foodgrains and vegetables, faulty implementation of GST, the strange move of demonetisation, lack of jobs are hurting people badly. Also, an utterly directionless budget has disappointed the middle class and even corporate India, two of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most solid pillars of support. Modi’s claim of being the magician who would turn India into a land of milk and honey is today the subject of ridicule and humour across social media platforms.
So, in this situation, the Sangh Parivar needs an emotive issue to hoodwink people all over again. Ram temple is one issue that can drive up the BJP’s electoral prospects, especially in the Hindi heartland where it is sinking rapidly, the Sangh believes. The recent communal clashes in Kasganj in Uttar Pradesh, orchestrated by mobs close to Sangh Parivar affiliates, were also attempts at polarising the electorate on communal lines. The Rath Yatra, the Sangh believes will further cement that polarisation and spread it to other states beyond the Hindi heartland. Hence, the Yatra is passing through quite a few southern states.
This is a dangerous gameplan. Already, the secular fabric of our nation has been tarnished with the blood of the likes of Akhlaq, Junaid and Pehlu Khan. The Sangh and its political front, BJP, must not be given free ground to use religion for their electoral politics. It is, therefore, necessary for the entire anti-BJP opposition to come together and chalk out a strategy to take on the Sangh-BJP politics in the garb of Ram temple head on. The BJP is a political party that organises riots to win elections. The Opposition must give them no quarter and take nothing back
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