Will BJP go the whole hog on Ram temple plank in 2024 poll?

The BJP plans to turn the consecration ceremony of Ram temple on January 22 into an emotive issue in the election year hoping it will relegate burning issues of inflation, unemployment etc to background. Meanwhile, assembly poll results will help the party to test the waters, writes Mudit Mathur

By making Ram temple at Ayodhya the central theme of its election campaign, the BJP would be entering uncharted waters — blending religion with politics to match ideology of Hindutva with cultural nationalism – as the party gears up for the 2024 Lok Sabha poll. Ayodhya would be projected as a capital of cultural nationalism and a hub of cultural tourism. If people reject its agenda of communal polarisation in the ongoing elections of five states, it would be a big blow to its ambitious plan to launch the 2024 general election campaign from the foot of  “Lord Rama” a la PM Modi’s  move for campaign launch with “Maa Ganga” blessings in 2014.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will be present at the ‘Prana Pratishtha’ ceremony (consecration ceremony) in Ayodhya on January 22. Besides, over 4,000 Sants and 2,500 eminent citizens have been invited to grace the occasion. The event is planned in such a way to change the poll narrative by sidetracking core issues the country is grappling with.

The poll strategists of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have planned to project the consecration ceremony of Ram temple at Ayodhya on 22 January as a victory day and huge achievement of the Modi government as after 400 years of struggle the Hindus have been finally entrusted with the reins of the temple. They believe the emotive issue will blow away the growing anti-incumbency and issues of misgovernance that the present government is facing over the record high-rate unemployment, unrestrained price rise of essential commodities and privatisation of national assets and infrastructure to benefit a select few corporate houses.

Government employees have been protesting nationwide demanding re-introduction of old pension scheme (OPS) for their social security but their voice is going unheard amid gala celebrations. The BJP plans to ignite the religious passions with a live telecast of the consecration ceremony of Ram temple and thereafter distributing ‘Prasad’ and ‘Akshat’ (holy offering) to every household in the country through their network of local BJP and RSS workers.

Leaders of the RSS, VHP and the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust have started holding virtual and physical coordination meetings with affiliate organisations, including the BJP with their respective ‘Prant’ units. More than thousand volunteers of different RSS affiliates from each of its 45 ‘Prant’ (regional) units across the country, will be distributing ‘Akshat’ from door-to-door, inviting them to attend celebrations at their nearest temple on January 22, to mark the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Arrangements of live streaming in each and every temple are being made by local BJP functionaries to showcase the mega event.

In a social media post on X in Hindi, the Prime Minister also shared images from the celebrations.  “Amazing, supernatural and unforgettable! The whole country is illuminated with the grand festival of lights of Ayodhya City illuminated with millions of lamps. The energy emanating from this is spreading new zeal and enthusiasm throughout India. I wish that Lord Shri Ram does well for all the countrymen and becomes an inspiration for all my family members. Jai Siya Ram!” He further mentioned that millions of ‘Diyas’ (earthen lamps) were lit in Ayodhya, illuminating the entire country.

Earlier, the homecoming from 14 years of exile of Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman was staged before the mega event of Deepotsav. “The chariot, carrying Lord Ram, Mata Janaki, three brothers, Bajrangbali, and Guru Vashishtha was pulled and welcomed by Governor Anandi Ben Patel, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy, Brajesh Pathak.” The CM also performed a symbolic coronation of Lord Shri Ram.