‘Ram Rajya’ rath yatra is BJP’s misuse of ‘Ram’ in politics

Having tried out several courses to reconsolidate its politics of polarisation, the BJP bigwigs seem to have finally returned to the same ‘Ram’ route to ensure return of Narendra Modi to power in 2019

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter
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Sharat Pradhan

Twenty-eight years ago, when Lal Krishna Advani launched his much talked-about ‘rath’ yatra , he paved the way for the Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) meteoric rise. The potion of religion worked like magic to take the rightwing party to well above the politics of caste engineered by then prime minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh’s decision to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission.

Now, when the BJP stands on a far more firm footing across the length and breadth of the country, it faces another challenge—of retaining its massive support base when the nation goes to polls a year from now.

Having tried out several courses to reconsolidate its politics of polarisation, the party bigwigs seem to have finally returned to the same ‘Ram’ route to ensure return of Narendra Modi to power in 2019; notwithstanding Modi’s own oft repeated proclamations about “sabka saath-sabka vikas” and his promises of building a “New India”.

The tp BJP leadership has been claiming to have nothing whatsoever to do with the 41- day long Ram Rajya Rath Yatra’, that was flagged off from Ayodhya on February 13 on a 6,000-km long journey to Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. “This yatra is being organised by two Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh affiliates, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Muslim Rashtriya Manch”, Acharya Mannady Hari , an official spokesman of the sponsors declared during the flag-off.

The fact of the matter is that the yatra would move through UP, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, that cover as many as 224 Lok Sabha constituencies. The BJP leadership, therefore, does not want to leave any stone unturned in whipping up religious passions by misusing the name of Lord Ram

His assertions sounded orchestrated as he went about claiming that there was no politics behind the yatra. Meanwhile leading BJP spokespersons have been busy trying to impress upon all and sundry that the yatra was meant to “create awareness” about ‘Ram Rajya’ and the Ram temple.

However, little have they been able to explain the need for such awareness. After all, of the six states that the yatra is going to pass through, at least three are ruled by the BJP, where the party was free to establish ‘Ram Rajya’ by ensuring good governance, that is terribly lacking. Do they mean to say that ‘Ram Rajya ‘ will come only by building the temple?

The fact of the matter is that the yatra would move through UP, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, that cover as many as 224 Lok Sabha constituencies.  The BJP leadership, therefore, does not want to leave any stone unturned in whipping up religious passions by misusing the name of Lord Ram.

The exercise could also come in handy to mobilise pressure groups for an out-of-court settlement of the Ramjanmbhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute that is coming up for final hearing before the Supreme Court from March 15. Evidently, Hindu groups appear to be  more keen than the Muslim side for an out-of-court settlement.

In fact, ever since the All India Muslim Personal Law Board declared that it would prefer the court verdict and would abide by it under all circumstances, several Hindu as well as Muslim groups have sprung up to push for a negotiated settlement. The reasons are not far to seek. Since any court verdict  is unpredictable, it suits Hindus to go for an out-of-court settlement clearly aimed in favour of the temple, which in their minds is a fait accompli ever since the 16th century Babri Masjid was pulled down and a makeshift temple was erected at the disputed site on December 6, 1992.

Key BJP or VHP leaders have kept out of the show essentially because the top leadership was still not sure of the response the yatra gets along the long route. They are going to test the waters.  Meanwhile, the 24-hour run so far has displayed a rather cold response in BJP-ruled UP. Time would tell if this yatra is able to pay off the big political dividends the saffron brigade hopes to reap out of the mega show

Shia Waqf Board and its chief Waseem Rizvi was one such outcome. He even went to the extent of offering the disputed land for construction of the Ram temple, even though he was never a party to the case . His doubtful credentials were exposed in the desperation he showed for giving away the land over which the Shia Waqf Board has no locus standi.

Like Rizvi, other protagonists of an out-of-court settlement too had no locus standi. Even Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has been taking much initiative to pave way for an out-of-court settlement, had nothing whatsoever to do with the legal dispute. The bearing that an out-of-court settlement could have on the 2019 Lok sabha elections is clearly
evident from the haste with which various initiatives have been taken by different groups. Interestingly, no Hindu group is open to any out-of-court settlement that could mean abdication of claim over the temple. They are also evidently not prepared to accept even a court verdict that may go against the claim of the temple. On the contrary, the Muslim parties have said time and again that they would abide by
any court judgement, be it in favour of or against the mosque.

Just as the fragile framework for an out-of-court settlement appeared to be giving way, the idea of the Ram Rajya Rath yatra cropped up, with the obvious  aim of keeping the Ayodhya flame burning.

Significantly, no prominent BJP or VHP leader was present during the flag-off by a lesser known VHP office bearer Champat Rai . Initially, it was planned that the the flag-off would be done by the saffron-clad UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Subsequently, local BJP MP Lallu Singh was named the chief guest. He, however, discreetly kept out of the show and arrived only after the yatra had moved from Karsewakpuram, the site where the chiseled and sculptured  blocks of pink stone are stocked  to start the temple construction.

Key BJP or VHP leaders have kept out of the show essentially because the top leadership was still not sure of the response the yatra gets along the long route. They are going to test the waters.  Meanwhile, the 24-hour run so far has displayed a rather cold response in BJP-ruled UP. Time would tell if this yatra is able to pay off the big political dividends the saffron brigade hopes to reap out of the mega show.

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