Aggressive posturing on the Ram temple could benefit BJP electorally but a negotiated settlement would be for the long term
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Dharma Sansad (Parliament of Hindu saints), Bajrang Dal and a host of Hindu organisations including the Shiv Sena are likely to be a dejected lot as their campaign to begin construction of a grand edifice for Lord Ram on the 2.77 acre disputed place at Ayodhya may not have yielded the desired result thus far. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has decided not to raise passions by buckling to the sentiments of Hindu outfits by enabling immediate construction of the Ram temple.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks in an interview to ANI seem to have been viewed by aggressive Hindu outfits as ‘a big let down’. Modi seems to have put paid to their demand for promulgation of a presidential ordinance on the proposed Ram temple. Modi has clearly stuck to the commitment in the party manifesto on awaiting a judicial verdict on the contentious temple issue. This is a clear indication that the government is unwilling to jump the gun on the matter.
In this context, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) welcoming Modi’s stand could at best be seen as a face-saver for the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to be held in less than three months. Unlike in the past, Hindu organisations may not allow the government the luxury of dragging its feet on the Ram Mandir issue on which several top stalwarts like LK Advani and MM Joshi campaigned hard. The RSS pariwar may continue to mount pressure on the government to find a way out to begin temple construction. To buy peace with Hindu organisations whose support is key to the BJP’s electoral success, the government may try and hasten the process of judicial remedy in the Supreme Court. Already, the highest court has expressed its willingness to set up a special bench on Ayodhya to complete the hearings on day-to-day basis.
However, the larger question remains as to how other political parties ranging from Left, centrist formations to Congress react on the issue. The Congress that pursued a soft Hindutva line in recent months may not be best placed to oppose a judicial resolution of the dispute. That is because for the Congress, balancing out the interests of Muslims in the dispute vis-à-vis vote bank politics could turn tricky. Indeed, given that the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh headed by Yogi Adityanath would be more than happy to proceed with construction of Ram temple, there is precious little the opposition parties can do to stop the move. If that were to happen in the next three months, the BJP will certainly reap electoral benefit from it. Naturally, there will be communal polarisation but this is unlikely to work to the disadvantage of the BJP. However, the effort must be to drive a mature socio-economic and political narrative. Even though right-wingers and Hindu organisations are speaking from a position of strength, there is no reason why a negotiated settlement should not be attempted.