Contrary to media portrayal, the SC verdict against the dropping of conspiracy charges against the top leaders of the BJP is a boon in the disguise of a setback. Yes, the Supreme Court has acknowledged the merit in the argument that L K Advani, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti and others should be held responsible for the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi on December 6, 1992. And thus, the charges of conspiracy should not be dropped.
The SC has also clubbed the case against Advani and other leaders for inciting the assembled mob with another case against hundreds of so-called karsevaks for the actual act of demolition.
Lastly, the SC has ruled that the case should be should be decided in two years (by April 2019) and in order to do so, the present judge should not be transferred and no adjournments would be allowed.
First, in the 25 years since the demolition in 1992, the BJP has captured almost total power in the country (besides a brute majority at the Centre it now rules in at least 10 states including UP).
They have been helped by the Ram Mandir issue in no small measure. And to support this, many observers cite its stellar performance in the 1989 general elections in which it rocketed to 88 Lok Sabha seats from just two in 1984.
However, the movement by the RSS-affiliated Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to "reclaim" Ram's birthplace itself began just months before Indira Gandhi's death in October 1984.
|Courtesy: Akhil Katyal/ Twitter.|
In the elections that took place two months later, her son Rajiv won with a landslide 401 seats. Even so, the BJP, which was till then known as the Jana Sangh, did not do as badly as was apparently evident by its paltry figure of two seats in the Lok Sabha.
BJP had come second in as many as 101 seats, and thus, when Advani took over as its president in 1986 he was more resolute to continue with the hard Hindutva line instead of being despondent as the leader of a two-member party.
In June 1989, through its Palampur Resolution, the BJP formally joined forces with the Ram Janambhoomi movement.
It had already been supporting the demand unofficially but with the adoption of the Palampur resolution the BJP came out in the open about its religious commitment to what it called "public sentiment" about the Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi issue.
They were helped in taking this turn towards majority polarisation by the Rajiv government's 1986 decision to nullify a Supreme Court verdict relating to alimony rights of Muslim women in the case now famous as the Shah Bano judgement.
The Palampur Resolution, which was drafted by Advani himself, in its operative part, said: "...the BJP believes that theocracy is alien to our history and tradition. It is, therefore that in 1947 even though India was partitioned on religious grounds and even though Pakistan declared itself an Islamic state, India opted for the present Constitution, and guaranteed equality to all citizens irrespective of their religion. Secularism, according to our Constitution-makers, meant sarva Pantha Sama Bhava. It did not connote an irreligious state. It certainly did not mean rejection of our history and cultural heritage.
The National Executive records its appreciation of the attempts made by some Shia leaders to persuade the community that it was contrary to the tenets of Islam to have a mosque built upon a place of worship of another religion, and that, therefore the sire in dispute should be handed over to the Hindus and a mosque built at some other suitable place. "
Recognising the political dividends of the Ram temple issue, and working on converting people's religious sentiments into political capital, has been the strength of the BJP. It was by playing on this sentiment, that the then BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh (present governor, Rajasthan) publicly promised to not come in the way of karseva on December 6, 1992.
They also reneged on the promises made to the National Integration Council (NIC) and to the Allahabad High Court that no harm will be allowed to come to the Babri Masjid as a result of the gathering of thousands of karsevaks.
And even though it was deprived of power at the Centre as a result of the political backlash in the wake of the riots that followed the Babri Masjid's demolition, it was able to become the main opposition party in the Hindi belt along with Maharashtra and Gujarat.
With the swearing-in of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999, BJP came back to power at the Centre but could not harness Ram's electoral power because of its dependence on other parties for majority in the Parliament.
However, the success of both its polarisation formula and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's image as a good RSS-backed administrator - affirmed by the results of the 2014 general elections and the 2017 UP elections - has boosted BJP's confidence in the electoral utility of the Ram Mandir issue.
BJP would like the Ram Mandir issue to simmer till the next general election and as astute political observers like senior journalist Rahul Shrivastava believe, "...the BJP won't mind the revival of charges against Advani and others as it it provides a means to keep their core constituency constantly engaged".
The response of hardliners and Advani's co-accused in the demolition case signifies that the engagement has begun. Union minister Uma Bharti and Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Katiyar both have declared that they are "ready to go to jail for the Ram temple".
One supposes that they know how to work the rhetoric as they were powerful mobilisers at the peak of the movement.
While Uma Bharti, a saffron-clad, self-declared sadhvi provoked the masses with speeches laden with religious symbolism, Katiyar was the founder-president of the notorious Bajrang Dal.
In any case, the BJP realises it very well that it is only the commencement of the trial, and much water has flown under the Sarayu bridge in the 25 years since the day India's Constitution was violently challenged under the pretext of upholding "public sentiment".