Aditya Sinha: Ram only knows what'll happen in 2019
Most assume that the Supreme Court will rule in favour of a Ram temple, but the BJP stands to gain even more with an adverse verdict
On our film set everyone asks me one question: whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will return to power in May 2019. (They assume journalists or even screenwriters have special insight, which we do not.) Such is the polarisation nowadays that just the way that someone asks will tell you whether they're pro- or anti-Modi. My standard answer: it's too early to tell.
Yes, there is increasing anger with the government because of rising prices, lack of jobs, the banking mess that stalls the economy, the fraudsters sitting pretty abroad and out of our enforcement agencies' reach, the highest GST slab rate still at 28 per cent, and above all, the whimsical November 2016 demonetisation. Voters have become so cynical that even the release of a video of the so-called surgical strike of September 2016 (I prefer to call it an extended "hot pursuit") hasn't changed any minds. Nobody even wonders why it is released so late in the day; it is assumed that the motivation is the Assembly elections later this year in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh - all BJP-ruled states where an anti-incumbency mood prevails.
None of this may matter. Or, more mildly, the mood may shift depending on the events in October, when the Supreme Court verdict on the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya is expected, not long before Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra retires. The Court is scrutinising the 2010 Allahabad High Court decision which divided the disputed land in Ayodhya - where once a Babri Masjid stood till it was demolished in December 1992 by the Sangh parivar, led by current Margdarshak Mandal member LK Advani - between the three litigating parties, namely those who want to build a temple on Ram Janmabhoomi, the (Sunni) Waqf board that represents the former mosque, and a local Nirmohi Akhara. The Supreme Court noted, while taking on the case, that none of the three parties wanted the land divided. Presumably, a major judgment is in under development. Every political worker in UP, no matter which party he or she belongs to, anxiously awaits this judgment.
Most assume that Chief Justice Misra will hand it over for a Ram temple; he will then retire, dreaming of becoming President of India one day. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and old firebrands like Union Minister Uma Bharti whip up a frenzy every day, talking about the imminent construction of the temple.
What they say, however, seems more sinister if you consider that the BJP does not want a favourable verdict. It may actually want the Supreme Court to rule against the Ram temple movement.
Consider the time-tested and preferred mode of cadre- and voter-mobilisation by the BJP. It relies on violence. It relied on violence in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 to sweep 73 of UP's 80 seats in the 2014 election. It has relied on local-level violence, as manifest in lynchings, cow vigilantism and love jihad anxieties, to keep their cadre, supporters and other cheerleaders happy during the past four years of Modi's prime ministership. The foundation of their politics is predicated on the definition of "the other"; it is why Modi spent all of 2013 bad-mouthing then prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, because the rupee had hit R60 per dollar. (The rupee is now on the verge of 70 to a dollar, bringing karmic revenge on Modi in the form of his acerbic one-liners being re-circulated on social media.) It is why Modi keeps finding enemies of the nation lurking in every corner despite his surgical strikes and love jihad vigils. Without an enemy, the raison d'être of a BJP mobilisation vanishes.
In that light, a positive development on the Ram temple front brings the Sangh parivar diminishing returns - many voters will hear the news and continue with the humdrum of their lives, looking for a job, praying that international prices of crude don't rise further, and wondering what happened to Modi's promise to bring the rupee to 40 to the dollar. Even if there is a grand extravaganza celebration of the first stone laid, etc, the news of the day will change the next evening, come what may.
If, on the other hand, the Ram temple movement receives an adverse verdict, think of the indignation that the BJP can whip up, think of the enemies they can start counting again, and think of the seamless way they can segue all that righteous passion into voting a few months later, in the parliamentary election. It perfectly sets Modi up to seek a second term. It's a no-brainer that the BJP prefers losing this case.
That's why it's too early to say what will happen in the parliamentary elections a year down the road. It is all dependent on Lord Ram and Chief Justice Misra, this October.
Aditya's latest book, The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace, co-written with AS Dulat and Asad Durrani, is now available.He tweets @autumnshade Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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