If democracy is about people, elections in India are definitely about the Ram mandir. With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections nearing, the competition to appropriate the Ram mandir issue too has intensified.
The Shiv Sena on Thursday (October 4) announced that its chief Uddhav Thackeray will visit Ayodhya after Dussehra to reaffirm his party's commitment to the issue.
Shiv Sena: The original Hindutva champion. (Credit: PTI file photo)
According to party leaders, it is only the Shiv Sena that has the "courage" to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Also, the Sena is of the view that "if the Ram temple is not constructed now, then it cannot be constructed ever".
The BJP, which came to power by promising to build a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya, is facing a lot of flak for failing to live up to its promise despite being in power for four years. Of late, BJP leaders have intensified their pitch for the construction of Ram temple even as the matter is sub-judice and is still being heard by the Supreme Court. The Sena in the past four years has often targeted the BJP for the "inordinate delay" in the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya despite having a majority.
Although an ally of BJP at the Centre and Maharashtra, Thackeray's party has already announced its decision to go solo in all future elections.
Interestingly, Sena's announcement came a day after Ram Janmabhoomi Trust chief Janmejay Sharanji Maharaj met Thackeray at the party's headquarters in Mumbai.
Posters for Shiv Sena's 'Chalo Ayodhya, Chalo Varanasi' drive put up on display in July. (Credit: ANI/Twitter)
Sharanji Maharaj reportedly told the Sena chief that his father, the late Bal Thackeray, was the one who contributed majorly towards bringing down the Babri Masjid (on December 6, 1992). So, it is only natural for the son to carry forward the legacy and now make the long-chased dream of Ram temple a reality.
Political observers, however, believe the Sena's call for ‘Chalo Ayodhya, Chalo Varanasi’ — a campaign launched in July on Uddhav Thackeray's birthday — is a last-ditch attempt at regaining its lost ground in Maharashtra.
Many feel that the Sena, which doesn't have any presence outside the state, will have little success in eating into the BJP vote bank with this move. But then, the Sena’s sole aim is to reclaim Maharashtra — where its popularity of late has hit rock bottom — and knows its limitations at the national level.
This seems to be Uddhav Thackeray's last chance to outdo the BJP in Maharashtra and send out the message that Sena is the original champion of Hindutva in the state.
With Thackeray also slated to visit Varanasi, PM Modi's constituency, the message seems to be clear — attacking Modi on his home turf, reminding the people of the PM's promise and the failure to live up to it.
The wounded tiger seems all set to roar back. But whether that roar will be loud enough is something that only time will tell.