Ram Mandir Pressure Mounts on BJP

Ayodhya to Raise Ram Mandir
Ayodhya to Raise Ram Mandir
Ayodhya to Raise Ram Mandir Issue

A landslide victory — winning over 325 of the 403 seats in the Uttar Pradesh state legislative assembly — may not be the end of Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) worries in the state. The first question that the people of UP have for the party that rules both centre and state is: “Who will be the CM of UP?”

This may be an easy one. Rajnath Singh, Keshav Prasad Maurya, Yogi Adityanath, Srikanth Sharma, Dinesh Sharma, and Manoj Sinha are among the many eligible candidates.

The second question, however, may not be an easy one to answer.

Will BJP Commit To The Construction Of The Ram Mandir In Ayodhya?

The Ayodhya Issue

Those who have lived through the turbulent 1990s remember the Ayodhya dispute very well. The site of the Babri Masjid was at the centre of a long-standing dispute between the Hindus and Muslims of the state. Hindus believe that the site is the birthplace of the Hindu God, Ram. The temple on this site is believed to have been destroyed by Mir Baqi, the general of Mughal emperor Babur.

The Babri Masjid, one of the largest mosques in the state was built here in 1528. The mosque was destroyed in the course of a political rally held by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a member organisation of the Sangh Pariwar, in December 1992. The incident sparked off communal riots between the Hindus and Muslims in many parts of India.

Senior leaders of the BJP, the VHP, and the RSS, apart from Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray were indicted for making provocative speeches. The country was torn by internal strife and nearly 2,000 people were killed.

In 2010, the Allahabad High Court announced its verdict asking the plot to be divided equally between Hindu Maha Sabha’s Ram Lalla, Sunni Wakf Board, and Nirmohi Akhara. The Supreme Court stayed the order in 2011 and the issue has remained unresolved since.

Demands For Ram Mandir

Within days of BJP’s victory in UP, the VHP and Shiv Sena have renewed calls for construction of the Ram Mandir in the disputed site. According to a news report, the VHP general secretary Surendra Jain said that he is left in no doubt that the BJP government will now initiate construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Shiv Sena’s MP Sanjay Raut also said, “Ram’s period of exile has ended”.

If you thought that the BJP will only be under pressure from its Sangh Pariwar allies, look a little closer. Senior BJP leaders from UP, too, seem favourably inclined towards building the Ram Mandir.

BJP MP Yogi Adityanath raked up the Ram Mandir issue and sought to consolidate the Hindu vote bank in his firebrand speeches ahead of the assembly polls. Vinay Katiyar, another senior BJP leader from the state is quoted to have said, “…development, education and employment are there in the city, but are meaningless without the temple”.

BJP’s Changing Colours

The Ram Mandir issue features in BJP’s manifestos – both, in the one released ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and for 2017 UP state assembly elections. The BJP’s Hindutva orientation is undeniable and this has often been the basis of its support and mandate. But ever since the party secured a thumping victory in the Lok Sabha, the BJP has made an effort to outgrow its religious orientation and take on a more inclusive outlook.

The Ram Mandir issue, which once formed the core of its manifesto has now been regaled to a footnote. Party chief Amit Shah did mention the issue ahead of the UP polls, but assured the masses that the party would push for a constitutional resolution.

He emphasised on promises such as employment, farm loan waiver, and free school education rather than deepening the religious divide. Party president for the state of UP Keshav Prasad Maurya also committed that BJP would abide by the Supreme Court’s rulings on the issue.

Indeed, UP has far more important developmental issues that the BJP needs to address for the growth and prosperity of the state. Having espoused reverse social engineering – an attempt to stitch together the various fragmented castes of the state, we now wait to see if BJP manages to unite the religious groups too.

Or will the party give in to the pressure of the likes of VHP and Shiv Sena, and yet again scorch the healing wounds of the ’90s?

What role will the Supreme Court play in the issue?

Much remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: The BJP has been presented with a unique opportunity to heal the social fabric of the state and translate the new-found unity into momentous development. If only it chooses to act in the best interests of the people of UP and India.


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