Ayodhya’s theatre of communal war
The theatre of absurd that is unfolding in Ayodhya right now, with top leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad arrested by the Akhilesh Ydav-led Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh for their insistence on defying the ban on the Kosi-84 parikrama, is clearly a blatant play of staged communalism and pseudo-secularism, both dedicated to serve the electoral needs of the respective parties. With the VHP, along with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party, having succeeded in stirring the communal passions and suitably firing up the hardline cadres of the saffron camp, and Samajwadi Party playing the secular state, hell bent on stopping the controversial yatra as a bait to lure in the core Muslim votes, the situation, evidently, is a political win all, with practically no losers but the Congress. While the VHP leaders Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia courted telegenic arrests and detentions, their high-voltage videos of attempting to conduct prayers on the banks of Saryu river, or refusing to leave the Lucknow airport as a matter of protest against the state’s ‘clamp down’, have grabbed enough television footage to substantially rouse the party bases and inflame the Hindu hardliners. On the other hand, the Akhilesh Yadav government has scored brownie points by deploying over 8,000 police personnel in order to ensure that the contentious tour amounting to brazen exhibition of Hindutva majoritarianism is cut short, though not without some sound and fury. So, when the VHP alleges that the SP government has been trying to ingratiate itself with the state’s large Muslim population, it is of course right, but the irony lies in the fact that it, too, is on the same boat.
The use of brazen communalism as an electoral gimmick and pre-poll strategy is becoming an entrenched practice in the rank and file of the political classes all across the spectrum. The Kosi-84 yatra is clearly divisive as it tries to rake up the Ramjanmabhoomi issue, even though many of the religious heads in the Ayodhya city themselves have expressed stark disaffection with the scheme. Several Hindu priests have come forward to declare that the VHP yatra is ‘political, not religious’, since the stipulated time for the parikrama, a 300-km walk encircling Ayodhya that has not been held in the last 50 years, is April-May. Clearly, the great Sangh Parivar is leaving no stone unturned to shore up prospects of the BJP scoring it big in the 2014 general elections, but is stirring communal passion the right way to earn votes? Besides the fact that the BJP needs a substantial chunk of the 80 strong Lok Sabha seats in UP in order to look like a formidable alliance-attracting force, it cannot by itself lure enough numbers. Moreover, the Samajwadi Party has a staggering presence in the region, which can be matched in the electoral amphitheatre only by the Mayawati-led Bajujan Samaj Party. Although, the BJP is counting on Narendra Modi’s development-driven charisma to make it big in UP, it still has a long way to go before it can usurp the SP government from the seat of power, despite the Durga Shakti fiasco dealing a big blow to the Akhilesh Yadav regime. Unfortunately, the political parties are, deplorably enough, once again banking on sharp polarisation of votes along the communal axis to clinch the 2014 all India polls.