After 25 years, Ayodhya is back as the main poll agenda for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. VHP, RSS and Shiv Sena have lend muscle to the 'Dharma Sabha' which will take place on Sunday on the banks of Sarayu river in Ayodhya. It will be followed by a holy ceremony (yagna) which will take place between December 1 and 6.
The city is teeming with saffron hue and decked up to welcome thousands of people who will descend in Ayodhya on Sunday, putting pressure on its insufficient civic infrastructure.
Point to be noted, the mobilisation of this scale is taking place in Ayodhya almost after two decades. The elections after 1996 were fought on issues other than Ayodhya. Post demolition, Ayodhya as a political issue was kept at the back burner for the compulsion of coalition politics. Interestingly, it was never the original vision of BJP when it was formed in the year 1980. It was only adopted in 1987 during the Palampur session.
The Dharma Sabha is being organised to exert pressure on the Central government to swiftly resolve the Ayodhya issue. This has happened because the Supreme Court has not displayed urgency on the matter as desired by a section of the civil society and political parties like BJP and Shiv Sena. In fact, the judiciary has always treated the issue as a land suit. Unfortunately, it has the potential to bring the judiciary and the executive face-to-face on the issue of law and governance.
The original poster boys of the Ayodhya movement today are long gone. LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi are on sidelines, Uma Bharti does have hold in the current dispensation, Sadhvi Ritambhara is not in politics, Kalyan Singh has been retired as a governor and Vinay Katiyar does not enjoy that weight in politics any more.
Advani’s politics after the demolition was constrained by the compulsion of a coalition. The fact they required help from smaller parties to form the government, the mandir agenda was brushed under the carpet; it lasted from 1996 until 2014. PM Modi’s big victory changed the game for BJP.
Over a period of time, BJP found it difficult to explain it to its core voters the reason behind its inability to construct the temple. It is this compulsion that has led to the mobilisation in Ayodhya. It is for this reason that BJP is questioning the Supreme Court on the issue of Sabarimala and Ayodhya. It is for this reason, BJP is trying to pitch this political narrative as a war against people versus the elitist institution. And, it is for this reason that right before the Lok Sabha elections, the saffron party wants its electoral campaign to have decisive Ayodhya colour, just in case the economic chest thumping fails.
Ayodhya, for this very reason, is back on agenda for BJP. The only issue which is worrisome is the law and order. Despite assurances given by the Kalyan Singh government, the mosque was brought down. Subsequently, BJP governments were dismissed by a presidential order. BJP is in no position to allow such a mischief, but in case anything of this order happens, the game will be wide open to political parties with hard secretarian views.
An issue which is being treated both as a land suit and a matter of faith has once again acquired the ability to mutate the DNA of a republic which is invested in constitutional morality.
If legal lines are crossed again, India will mirror ugly realities of Pakistan which it has not been able to deal with ever since partition because of rapid break down of civilian institutions and religion acquiring primacy over culture, politics and economy.
The most unfortunate part is that the principal Opposition party is in no position to take any position on Ayodhya. Rajiv Gandhi got the locks opened and the mosque fell when PV Narasimha Rao held the charge as the prime minister.
Rahul Gandhi is far more focussed on his image makeover by temple hopping, leaving a vacuum in cultural space to be consumed by BJP-RSS alike. Today, there is no stopping BJP because Congress cannot take a position on temple dispute. BJP has changed the goalposts of debate on religion and state, on which Congress failed as a neutral gatekeeper.