Verdict may not end all politicking over Ayodhya
While many feel the euphoria after the verdict may be short-lived, it will continue to deliver dividends for the BJP
Ayodhya: The apex court's verdict in the century-old Ayodhya dispute has ended one of the longest judicial battles in the country. But whether it will end all the politicking that went on for decades in the name of Ayodhya and Ram remains a million dollar question.
The seeds of politics in the name of Lord Ram were sown way back in 1986, when the Faizabad (now Ayodhya) district court ordered the unlocking of the gates to the disputed Ramjanmbhoomi-Babri Masjid. For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) spearheading the Ayodhya temple movement, which took off only in the early eighties, the court order came as a shot in the arm. After all, it came in handy for them to claim that unlocking of the gates was the result of their effort.
The Congress, that had by then already ruled the nation and UP for nearly four decades on the strength of its secular credentials, did not hesitate to take a plunge into the cesspool of religious politics. Then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi organised a 'shilaniyas' (foundation ceremony) of the proposed Ram temple right across the front courtyard of the Babri Masjid. In order to counter the BJP's aggressive upper caste Hindu politics, the Congress got a Dalit to lay the foundation stone.
Sure enough, it was a political blunder on the part of the Congress to get trapped in the BJP's game of religious politics. Meanwhile, Vishwanath Pratap Singh's revolt against Rajiv Gandhi felled the Congress regime. Even as Singh, as PM, ushered in the recommendations of the Mandal commission, granting reservation in jobs to OBCs, BJP gained political ground. Analysts described it as victory of "kamandal" over "mandal".
Thus even as Mulayam Singh Yadav managed to romp home in 1989 and ruled Uttar Pradesh as chief minister until the end of 1990, the firing he ordered on Hindu kar sevaks attempting to storm the Babri masjid on October 30, 1990, and on November 2, 1990, proved to be his Waterloo. On the contrary, it gave a sudden spurt to BJP, which rode on to power at the next election a year later. However, it was the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid by an over-enthused Hindutva brigade on December 6, 1992, that led to the dismissal of a BJP government under party strongman Kalyan Singh, who had given an undertaking before the Supreme Court that he would not allow any harm to be caused to the mosque and would abide by the court order of maintaining its status quo.
By then it had become a matter of fact that Ayodhya was responsible for making and unmaking of governments in UP. No wonder the BJP made it a point to very systematically include "construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya" in each of its election manifestos during every state election that followed through the years. Initially it failed to give the BJP any meaningful political dividends as Mulayam's OBC politics and Mayawati's Dalit politics came in the way. By the turn of the millennium, the BJP managed to once again make some inroads by using the Ayodhya card in a more subtle manner.
It was the advent of Narendra Modi on the national scene that turned the tide in favour of the BJP. A master of the art of histrionics, he could very skilfully use Ayodhya to take political leaps without having to raise the pitch on the issue. While others in his party would do the rabble-rousing on Ayodhya, Modi charmed the masses through his gift of the gab, which none of his opponents could even remotely match.
As the Supreme Court verdict came today, someone no less than Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat did not mince words at his press conference to admit how much the Ayodhya issue was instrumental in driving the BJP to power.
It would be no surprise if the BJP continues to reap political mileage out of the Ayodhya issue now at this juncture when the Supreme Court has cleared all decks for the construction of the temple.
Even as many analysts feel the euphoria generated on account of the verdict may be short-lived, there can be no denying that it will continue to deliver political dividends for the BJP at least for another year, during which a couple of states are slated to go to polls. In that case, what cannot be ruled out is the possibility of the ruling dispensation allowing the construction to linger on for a long period. After all, the court has given the government three months time to set up a trust to which the construction of the temple could be entrusted. While the court has directed the government to ensure participation of the Nirmohi Akhara in the proposed trust (even though it dismissed the Akhara's claim to the disputed property), it has left it to the discretion of the Union government to include whoever it considers suitable for the task.
That leaves ample scope for the government to utilise the name of the temple to serve its larger political ends for a longer period than one can comprehend.
Whether the ruling dispensation actually resorts to different tactics to exploit the temple issue, only time will tell. However, what is evident is that the verdict has certainly given Modi a boost. The credit for the calm that has prevailed in Ayodhya and other places is being attributed largely to the prime minister, whose well-worded and repeated appeals are believed to have had the desired impact on the people's minds.
The court's direction to allocate five acres for a mosque has come as a balancing act. Opposition leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi have sought to give this a weird twist and gone to the extent of terming it as "khairat" (charity), expressing his opposition. Sure enough such utterances could unnecessarily vitiate the communal harmony.
Back in Ayodhya, sadhus and pilgrims alike have been hailing Modi even for the verdict. "So what if the Supreme Court has given the verdict, ultimately what matters is the ideal environment that has been created and maintained all through, for which credit goes to none other than Modi," said one.
The writer is a senior journalist.
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Ayodhya Verdict: Temple at disputed site, alternative plot for mosque