RSS, VHP reviving Ayodhya Ram temple issue to help BJP in UP polls

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay
Nilanjan MukhopadhyayFeb 09, 2016 | 17:02

RSS, VHP reviving Ayodhya Ram temple issue to help BJP in UP polls

In recent weeks various wings of the Sangh Parivar have upped the ante on the now-on, now-off Ram temple movement. Statements varying from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat's confident assertion that the Ram temple will be built in his lifetime to a claim by Union minister Kalraj Mishra that it was just a matter of time before the Supreme Court verdict will allow the Parivar greater elbow room to decide on its course of action, demonstrate that the Ram temple issue is back in the agenda in a prominent way. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) also drew up elaborate plans in early January to ignite passion over the issue.


As of now, the VHP intends to organise a "Ram Mahotsav" in April across the country. The programme is being undertaken with the aim of taking the movement to the rural areas and to revive the agitation in a manner that it also yields political dividends for the BJP.

Since it had happened earlier, there is hope that a repeat is possible. As part of the movement, VHP activists will fan out to over 1.25 lakh villages and conduct religious discourses and hold mass mobilisation drives for an entire week, with the festival of Ram Navami being celebrated towards the end of that week, on April 15.

Earlier this month the VHP's Kendriya Margadarshak Mandal met in Allahabad and posed a challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to "click a selfie at Ram Janmabhoomi". The leaders also asked Modi to "break his silence" on the Ayodhya issue and demanded that the government must initiate steps to begin constructing a temple at the dispute site.

The RSS is also intending to conduct an intensive training session on the Ayodhya issue for members and sympathisers on social media. Titled "Ram Mandir: A Reality", the session on February 20 will enable the brigade to get its nuance right and load its munitions with facts and figures.


The RSS had held similar sessions when the debate over intolerance was raging and again when there was a debate on the need to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, that grants special autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

It needs recollection that elections in Uttar Pradesh are due in February-March 2017 and also, the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid will be observed in December that year. The occasion has been observed contrastingly by Muslims groups as a day of national shame while the VHP and its affiliates in the Sangh Parivar have identified the day as "Shaurya Divas" or "Valour Day".

The VHP has always maintained that the Ram temple issue has to be viewed separately from partisan politics as it is a national issue. Even a person like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was considered to have disfavoured active championing of the Ram temple issue by the BJP, including LK Advani's transformative Somnath-to-Ayodhya rath yatra, had declared in Parliament during a debate when he was prime minister that the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was a "symbol of nationalist aspiration".


Given this background, it is anyone's guess if the current attempt to stir up passion over the issue has any link with the impending polls in the state or not. The BJP faces a major electoral challenge in Uttar Pradesh and will be hard pressed to reach anywhere close to its performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when it won 71 of the 80 parliamentary seats with a massive vote share of more than 42 per cent.

In the parliamentary polls, the BJP also had an alliance with Apna Dal, which though a small party with base in the Kurmi caste, enabled it to mop up vital support in several constituencies. However, with reports that the party is being courted by Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh who himself appears poised to merge his party with the JD(U), political alignments in the state do not appear to be shaping up in way that would gladden hearts in the BJP.

The reason, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Advani declared that December 6, 1992 was the saddest day of his life was not because the government failed to protect the shrine despite judicial directive. His sorrow stemmed from the realisation that a powerful political tool slipped out of the hand of the Sangh Parivar because the symbol of the so-called "humiliation of Hindus" had been removed.

Thereafter, he calculated, it would be very tough to mobilise the extent of support which the agitation managed previously.

For a quarter of a century the VHP has attempted to whip up passions on Ayodhya without much success. Yet, it is foolhardy to argue that the issue has lost steam and is beyond revival. It needs to be recollected that Modi is a product of an upsurge of anger that was triggered by events in Ayodhya.

In February 2002, the VHP organised a major programme in the temple town and exhorted it supporters to travel to Ayodhya to participate. It was after partaking in one such round that a trainload of enthusiastic supporters embarked on their return journey to Gujarat on the Sabarmati Express.

What happened thereafter in Godhra, how this triggered a wave of mob violence and its contribution in elevating Modi from a marginal satrap to a national figure is well known and requires little recounting.

It is thus necessary to keep a close watch on the temple plans of the RSS and its affiliates. Since victory in Uttar Pradesh is going to be essential for the BJP in the run-up to the next parliamentary polls, no mode of garnering support will be missed. At the moment the embers of Ayodhya appear to have died down, but one never knows what lies ahead.

Last updated: February 10, 2016 | 13:38
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