Lord Ram is going to play an important role in the upcoming polls of Lok Sabha. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its mentor RSS have started chanting his name with all vigor and they are likely to take up one or two programmes that may continue up to 2019 elections. The Sangh Parivar is also creating an atmosphere that may give them an opportunity to bring up an ordinance to bypass the Supreme Court. Even if they do not come out with an ordinance, the talk of it will attract people towards the temple issue. This is also to force the parties to discuss the issue in ongoing elections of five state assemblies. The parties, at least, Congress has understood the game plan and trying not to directly join the issue with the BJP. Other parties are also maintaining the caution. It is another issue that avoiding confrontation with the issue may not be the right course of politics in a country like India where Muslims constitute a sizeable part of the population. It requires no elaboration that taking refuge in issues like Ram temple indicates an obvious failure of the BJP in addressing vital issues the country is currently facing. In addition to collapse of institutions, the country is faced with a challenging situation on economic front. Issue related to security too demands an urgent attention, But, the Modi government is embroiled in restoring its fast eroding credibility as the coordinator of a federal polity as has been seen the case in sending the CBI director on leave or in trying to dictate terms to Reserve Bank of India.
However, the assumption that the government may soon promulgate an ordinance to build a Ram temple at Ayodhya has also some loopholes. It would be hardly difficult for the people at the helm of affairs to anticipate the hostility which may arise in the judiciary after the ordinance. The move itself may come under judicial scrutiny and mishandling may jeopardize the very attempt that is aimed at polarizing the people. The open hostility generated by the move may also adversely affect the balance between the government and the judiciary. There Supreme Court could come out with some drastic steps as well because Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was one of the participants of the historic press conference organized by the four senior most judges to tell the citizens of the country that the judicial autonomy of the country.
The dilemma of the government was visible during debate on a national TV channel that was attended by the law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. He could not avoid commenting on the delay in hearing of the Ram Temple case. Though he added that as a law minister, he is not supposed to comment on the issue, as a BJP leader, he has to talk of what is going on in the minds of people. The law minister showed some restraints because of the position he is holding, but BJP president Amit Shah could not show such restraints and attacked the Supreme Court in public meeting in Kerala by saying that the court is giving verdicts that could not be implemented. These attacks are bound generate hostility between the government and the judiciary.
The announcement of a grand statue of Ram at Ayodhya by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister may be an exit route. Instead of taking recourse to such an adventure of issuing an ordinance, the BJP may try to change the narrative surrounding the issue and concentrate on building up a grand statue of Ram. It will serve more than one purpose. On the one hand, it could boast of making tireless effort to restore the dignity of Lord Ram and on the other, it could postpone the issue of Ram Mandir. This will also allow it to continue with Ram temple issue. However, there is some possibility of Prime Minister Modi’s choosing to risk an ordinance to win the elections because he has advisers who are used to taking extreme steps.
Here, there is an interesting development too which points to a perceptible change in the political strategy of BJP as far as the Ram Temple issue is concerned. This is the change in the RSS attitude towards it. In his ambitious reach out program at Delhi, Mohan Bhagwat told an audience at Vigyan Bhavan that the Ram temple should be built at the earliest, but he left it to
He had also said that a final decision rests with the Ram Mandir Samiti, which is spearheading the campaign for the construction of a Ram temple. He had said that he had no knowledge of whether an ordinance on Ram temple was being contemplated ted as he is not a part of the government.
“As a Sangh worker, head of the Sangh and as a part of Ram Janambhoomi andolan, I want that a grand Ram temple should be constructed at the earliest at the birth place of Lord Ram,” he had said.
“It should have happened by now. The construction of a grand Ram temple will help in ending a major reason for tension between Hindus and Muslims, and if the temple is built in a harmonious way, then there will be no more pointing of fingers at Muslims,” he had said in Delhi on September 20, this year.
However his wordings got changed within a month and ‘harmonious’ way of resolving the issue changed its course. He asserted on October 18 at Nagpur that the government should bring a law to build a Ram Temple. He was addressing his his cadres on Vijaya Dashmi. “The government should clear the path for construction of the grand temple through appropriate and requisite law,” he said.
“There is an obvious game plan of a few elements to stall the judgment by presenting various newer interventions in the judicial process,” he alleged. He also reiterated the old slogan that the temple was necessary for the “self-pride”. The reversal in his stance shows the urgency for getting an emotive issue. The development and other secular agenda seem to have exhausted their utility for Modi and Shah and this led Bhagwat to change his stance. The urgency was also reflected in another instance. He had supported the Supreme Court judgment on Sabrimala but later changed his stance and criticized the verdict for not taking into account the traditional belief while deciding the matter.
The apprehension that change of stance has been made to help Modi and Shah in pursuing Hindutva agenda.
However, there are problems for BJP in mobilizing its own allies on the issue. While most docile of its allies, JDU was first to dissociate itself from the stand BJP has taken. Another ally, Shiv Sena is taking more aggressive stand in order to out beat BJP. It wants to share its pride in demolishing the Babri Masjid.
In the noise of Ram temple, most of us might have missed the transformation of Ram from a warrior-king who will restore the lost pride of Hindus to a patriarchal deity who is ready to preserve the pride of caste Hindus. Yogi Adityanath is trying to reinvent Ram and wants the Lord to come in for his rescue. He seems to have his own idea on using the issue which is evidently different from that of the Sangh Parivar. One can see Ramvilas Vedanti on his side, a member of the Ram Janmbhhomi Nyas Samiti. An MP of two terms, he has been a Thakur leader. This could be seen in the background of the fact that backward caste leaders like Vinay Katiyar was not given prominence in any of the celebrations to commemorate the return of Ram to Ayodhya.
It is clear that the image of Ram will have a transformation and his earlier political avatar as a symbol of pride will transform into a warrior king who will fight a caste battle in north Indian states. This time not only Muslims will be targeted, but also Dalits and others. Muslims has already been punished for their sin of building a mosque at his birthplace. Yogi is also narrowing the narrative to suit local requirement. He has announced airport in the name of Ram and a medical college in the name of Dashrath, his father.