With his comment that 'Ram Temple was not a priority', if the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, intended to keep the Ayodhya issue out of the shadows of General elections, he might have achieved just the contrary-- bringing it to the centre stage as the key campaign subject not just for the BJP but for other parties as well. An angered saffron brotherhood has launched a mobilization that sources tell this writer, would be so decisive a push as to force the Narendra Modi government to act irrespective of the ongoing judicial process.
Led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and fronted by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the first phase of the movement saw three massive rallies in Ayodhya, Nagpur, and Bengaluru on November 25. The second phase would have VHP events in all districts of the country, culminating with a mega show of strength on December 9 in Delhi, ahead of the winter session of parliament.
Before the Chief Justice-led Supreme Court bench put the case in abeyance, RSS had voiced the need for a dialogue and amicable solution – for example by backing Sri Sri Ravishankar efforts – even as deferring to the Supreme Court proceeding. It’s chief Mohan Bhagwat who had said at a three-day conclave in Delhi in September that 'while the Temple should come up at the earliest, it should involve the society'. On Sunday, Bhagwat was all impatient.
“A year ago I myself had asked to be patient. But if for some reasons the court is busy, then the government should think of ways to bring a law,” he said at the Nagpur VHP rally.
Where does it put the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? On the face of it, the BJP seems to be on the horns of a dilemma. Bringing a law, as demanded by the RSS and VHP, would have an immediate impact of rousing the cadres, translating into a core constituency consolidation heading into the general election. But it runs the risk of acting as a finger in the eye of the SC bench, which already does not look like well disposed toward the case. What if the verdict goes against the Hindu community? It seems the BJP and the Narendra Modi government are aware of the razor’s edge they must tread. Expecting belligerence during the RSS national executive meet in the first week of November, party chief Amit Shah rushed to meet Bhagwat in Mumbai. Sources tell us that the issue was discussed threadbare between the two and a strategy put in place that would bring the issue centre stage while avoiding a direct confrontation with the apex court. At the conclusion of the meet, a restrained RSS number two, Bhaiyyaji Joshi, asked the SC to reconsider its decision on delay as it had hurt the Hindu sentiments.
At the Ayodhya VHP rally, speaker after speaker – essentially saffron-robed angry Hindu clergy – underscored how constitutional law should reflect a society’s aspirations, if not be wholly subservient to it. The message was clearly aimed at the Supreme Court, as much as the Narendra Modi government.
If the SC could urgently hear the petition of terror convict Yaqoob Memon, why make Lord Ram wait for a roof over his head?” ran the argument.
On the ground in Ayodhya, support of the second rung of BJP was palpable. Hoardings sponsored by BJP leaders welcoming participants dotted all roads leading to the venue. At least two members of parliament and three members of Uttar Pradesh Assembly were spotted leading supporters to the rally. The Yogi Adityanath government played supportive by facilitating smooth operation of the event, though a massive security clampdown ensured it went off peacefully.
And BJP is not the only party calibrating its position on the issue ahead of elections. Congress leader CP Joshi made headlines last week, claiming a Congress Prime Minister would get the Ram Temple constructed! Kapil Sibal vanished swiftly from the SC case after the party realised the potential damage from his position. It’s recorded history that the original groundbreaking at Ayodhya happened under the Congress. The stage is set for a Ram Temple election in 2019.