Why the Ram temple issue has been raised ahead of 2019 general elections

No political party has any real issues to raise before the electorate for votes.

 |  4-minute read |   20-10-2018
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In a re-enactment of the legend, effigies of Ravan, the rakshash king of Lanka was vanquished by Lord Ram, once again. Every Dusshera the Ram of hope slays the Ravan of greed, despair, pomp and pride. Every election season, especially general elections, have since 1991 seen the mightiest scion of the Ikshvakus being invoked for political gains.

dusshera-690_101918052336.jpgEvery Dusshera the Ram of hope slays the Ravan of greed, despair, pomp and pride. (Source: India Today)

Everyone in India, irrespective of their caste, creed and religion, is in all probability aware of the legend of Lord Ram. They know he was born in Ayodhya. So an appeal for a temple at his birthplace began an emotional pitch.

The Congress, under Rajiv Gandhi, did a balancing act by unlocking the doors to the Babri masjid and allowing shilanyas, to appease the Hindus after succumbing to All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s (AIMPLB) arm-twisting in the Shah Bano case.

That politics of religion is being fought this year too.

BJP sticks to Lord Ram, Congress and its scion, mind it a 'janeyudhari' (an upper caste Brahmin), seems to be taking the Lord Shiva route to electoral victory while Akhilesh Yadav and the Samajwadi Party are invoking Lord Vishnu. Co-opting of Gods for political mileage seems to have finally gone viral.

Lord Ram has served the purpose well for the BJP. Or rather the issue of the proposed temple at his birthplace in Ayodhya has. The first success came in 1991, the first time BJP went beyond the 20 per cent vote share. Though the Congress won, the die had been cast. The tumultuous days of 1992 followed.

babri-690_101918052411.jpgHard Hindutva has been clothed in a developmental agenda. (Source: India Today)

The tension was palpable even in our small town, Midnapore, which till then had witnessed few communal upheavals. Violence followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and many lives were lost. The political reverberations of the incident are still being felt. The years 1996 and 1998 saw BJP continue to gain ground. It culminated in the 1999 win for the party.

Taking nothing away from political managers and their skills in stitching together coalitions, election pitches had a new twist — logical ideals like rights, justice, even democracy were overshadowed by a raw emotive issue — the temple became the personification of Lord Ram.

The temple issue was turned into a weapon. In the short-term, rarely would you see logic trumping raw, unbridled emotions. After a successful spell, the party lost for two consecutive terms.

It took up a new ploy — hard Hindutva was clothed in a developmental agenda. A fantastic orator, gifted with acumen of establishing an immediate connect with his audience, led the BJP and its allies to victory, their biggest till date. The issue of the temple was found at the far end of the manifesto.

babri-mosque-690_101918052427.jpgThe temple issue was turned into a political weapon. (Source: India Today)

Since then the talismanic mandir made brief appearances, including an extremely successful one, during the 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP wave swept away everyone and everything that came in its way. They surprised the people, the media people and probably even themselves. One of the staunchest and most vocal supporters of the Ram mandir was sworn in as the chief minister of the state. Now, surely the mandir couldn't have been delayed. Despite some positive sound, the issue was gently wrapped up in gossamer to be used later.

The years of NDA II will show that the emotive issue of Lord Ram has been supplanted by a host of emotive issues — consumption of beef, ban on cattle slaughter, surgical strikes.

Development has taken place, although the quantum and speed may be debatable. The government has largely kept clear of headlines grabbing scams and corruptions. The BJP would bring quite a bit to the NDA table, so why this sudden spurt of action on the Ram mandir front? Why was the PM greeted by the crowds, a few times in the recent past, by chants of 'Jai Shri Ram'?

This could be a well thought out strategy. The Opposition does not have much on its hands in terms of issues. The ruling combine will not be too keen in handing out one and the temple issue is like an insurance policy. Just in case.

Also read: Why it’s high time Congress speaks up on Ram temple in Ayodhya


Arindam De Arindam De @arindamde01

The writer is journalist working with India Today.

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