Narendra Modi offering prayers Photograph:( Zee News Network )
The temple will not just usher in connectivity, but also tourism, jobs and revenue.
Over the years, many political parties have made fortunes over a Ram temple. Some by promising it, others by opposing it, still others by sitting on the fence, and still more by offering mediation. Over the last 4 decades, the Ayodhya temple issue has been a political genie for several political parties, especially the BJP which openly supported the temple agitation since its formation back in 1980.
In 2014, the BJP came to power by promising a Ram temple. As the Ayodhya files moved from one court to another, political parties kept the issue burning in the election rallies. Now, with the foundation stone laid, parties will have to rebuild their political narratives.
Now that the foundation stone for the temple has been laid, what is the road ahead? First and most importantly, the temple issue should unite and not divide India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly stressed that Lord Ram is for everyone, today.
The temple will help in the development of Ayodhya. The state government has already made a special provision of 500 crores for an airport in Ayodhya. The city's old railway station is being re-developed at a cost of over 100 crores rupees. Another 85 crores has been kept aside for high-class infrastructure.
The temple will not just usher in connectivity, but also tourism, jobs and revenue. And finally, the Ram temple will help harness the international appeal of the Ramayan. The Hindu epic has been a global soft power for India. The story of Ramayan has been told in different versions in different parts of the world. Ramayan links countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia to India. The construction of a temple so closely linked to the epic will only help boost India's soft power in the region.
Why this is a seminal moment
1. A major shift in Indian politics: The temple issue was a potent mix of politics, religion and the law. A decades-old raison d’être for political forces has been dissolved. Those who whipped up passions in the name of Ram, those who fought elections opposing it, those who sat on the fence, will all have to find something else to do.
2. Secularism vs pseudo-secularism: the Ram temple movement forced India to introspect. Was secularism being used as a political fig leaf to hide minority appeasement? Was the state being unfair to the majority Hindus? What did secularism mean in the Indian context?
3. Hindus as a political force: The Ayodhya movement made Hindus politically relevant. Compare to Zionism and political Islam.
The road ahead:
1. Reconciliation: Modi won re-election bridging caste divides. He said Ram is for everyone. All legal parties have given positive statements. This temple should unite and not divide India. Come out of the realm of politics.
2. Development of the city of Ayodhya, infra push for the region, connectivity
3. Soft power/global connect: The Ramayan circuit, harness the international appeal of the Ramayan.