How I.N.D.I.A. leaders should react to the Ram Temple ‘googly’

Who invites political parties to the inauguration of a temple, a gurudwara or a church? Is there an example from anywhere else in the world?

Ram Temple in Ayodhya under construction (photo: @ChampatRaiVHP/X)
Ram Temple in Ayodhya under construction (photo: @ChampatRaiVHP/X)

AJ Prabal

Ordinarily, the inauguration of a temple would be a religious affair, but who said the Ram Temple is about religion? The BJP, VHP or the RSS cannot be blamed for creating any such illusion. Ever. 

If anyone had any doubt about the Ram Temple at Ayodhya being a political and electoral gambit, the doubts should have been dispelled when invitations were extended to ‘all’ political parties — and the much-publicised announcement of the list of invitees. If the inauguration were not a political event, where was the need to invite political parties? Who invites political parties to the inauguration of a temple, a gurudwara or a church? Is there an example from anywhere else in the world?

The temple, reports suggest, will be completed only in 2025. So, why inaugurate it in 2024, that too weeks before the general election? The answer is obvious. The Hindutva lobby and the BJP had planned to milk the event for the 2024 general elections. The inauguration was strategically timed and the inauguration is not only going to take up an entire week beginning 16 January 2024, but will extend until March or beyond as the ‘faithful’ are transported to Ayodhya by the busload. Who will pay for them and why? The answer is again obvious. It will not be faith and devotion but politics which will be driving them.

A private invitation to attend a religious ceremony could have been ignored with a polite ‘thank you’ note; but the invitation being political, political parties in the opposition cannot afford to react ‘normally’.

The dilemma is understandable, though. If ignoring the invitation has a political cost, accepting it is also not an option because the BJP will surely mock, malign and humiliate the opposition either way, that being the political design of the move. The BJP leaders and their media cheerleaders will have a handy toolkit ready to criticise the opposition leaders’ so-called ‘temple runs’, pseudo-secularism and anti-Hinduism.

How, then, should the Opposition respond? The answer may be to engage with the invitation with matching political cunning, to engage with it on their own terms. Here’s my prescription:

To start with, the invitees should politely ask the temple trust to explain why it has extended the invitation to political parties in the first place. Was Sonia Gandhi invited as an elected MP, a former Congress president or UPA chairperson?

The trust should also be informed politely that the leaders will visit the temple when it is more convenient to them. And when they do, they should turn their visits into political talking points. For greater effect, the INDIA bloc leaders should space out their visits to Ayodhya, visiting the temple separately or in small groups and possibly even launch their election campaigns from there.

The trust should also be asked to clarify why Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been asked to be the 'yajman’ (one who performs the sacred yajna) and ‘priest’ for the inauguration. Particularly since this doesn’t even square with their own Hindu convention that a married Hindu, as former BJP MP Subramanian Swamy pointed out, cannot officiate at a religious ceremony unaccompanied by his wife.

This is the language the BJP understands and this is the language the Opposition must speak while engaging with their crass politics.

(Views are personal)

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines