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The Ayodhya quandary

Supreme Court’s historic judgement is likely to set several precedents in the process of resolving the decades-old issue in Ayodhya

The Ayodhya quandary

Ayodhya is getting ready to face the impact of the Supreme Court judgment on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmaboomi title suit by next month. The verdict will, hopefully, put a lid to the dispute between the two communities on the right of ownership. A violent mob of karsevaks had pulled down the Babri masjid adjacent to the Ram temple in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, which has affected the communal fabric of the country. The Hindu side represented by seven parties over the disputed site have argued in the apex court that there was a temple dedicated to the birthplace of Lord Ram before Babri Masjid was erected during the medieval times. The judgment is likely to be delivered before November 17, by which time the present chief justice of India Ranjan Gogoi will be retiring.

The BJP leaders are upbeat hoping for a favourable judgment and the party is happy that their 'Mandir wohi banayenge' slogan could, at last, become a reality after waiting for decades. Local leaders claim that over 65 per cent of the stone carving work for the proposed temple has been completed and a lot of karsevaks have volunteered to work for the temple. If the verdict goes in favour, the prime minister could lay the foundation stone on December 6 according to the BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has also said that he is hopeful for a favourable verdict. He has already readied the state administration to face a post-verdict scenario. The Faizabad district has been renamed as Ayodhya, which is being developed as a tourist attraction with widened roads, ghats spruced up and heritage temples refurbished.

The Ayodhya verdict would have an impact on legal, political and religious areas. The apex court order might put a lid on the legal side but its impact on the political and religious sides are equally significant. It is likely that the two sides might accept the judgment. Muslim religious scholars and leaders have also said that both sides of the dispute should accept the verdict, whatever it may be. It will be a big gain for BJP, as the party's political and electoral fortunes in the past three decades owe their rise to such promises. Looking back, the BJP began its campaign for the Ram temple in the nineties. The razing of the Babri masjid in 1992 was a turning point in the history of BJP and its Hindutva politics. In fact, Prime Minister Modi had a role during Advani's Ram rath yatra, which began from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya in 1990. The yatra did not culminate in Ayodhya as planned due to Advani getting arrested.

The Babri Masjid demolition has not only changed the political narrative of the country but has also helped the BJP to establish itself in national politics. Post-Babri Masjid demolition, the BJP has acquired a national identity and national stature. The party, which was known as a Bania-Brahmin party and had a strong presence only in the Hindi belt, has expanded as a pan-national party now replacing Congress.

The Ayodhya agenda has been a recurring theme to which the Sangh Parivar and its affiliates, most importantly the Bharatiya Janata Party, have returned to again and again. The BJP has been consistently talking about the Ram temple and had included it in its manifesto since 1996 polls. However, BJP leader LK Advani after the demolition stated- "The agitation is not just about constructing a temple, it is there to propagate Hindutva's foundational idea, cultural nationalism."

Other political parties including Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have been treading around the issue very cautiously. Seeing the phenomenal rise of BJP, Congress has been trying to adopt a soft Hindutva politics in recent times with the party leaders like Rahul Gandhi visiting temples. The SP, BSP, RJD and other parties relevant in the nineties have lost their sheen now.

The BJP's future agenda depends on how it plays it Hindutva card. At present, the party would primarily like to consolidate its base all over the country. It has to expand in the northeast and the south. BJP is targeting expansion in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Moreover, the economic agenda needs priority as it is slipping beyond control. Creation of jobs and boosting the economy needs immediate attention. It is easier said than done when the global economy is facing a recession.

Next on the agenda is likely to be the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. BJP chief Amit Shah and the Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar have gone public on the matter of reclaiming PoK after the revocation of Article 370. But there is enough time for this until before the next elections. Of course, one week is said to be a long time in politics and five years, very long time and there could be other issues which may come up.

(Views expressed are strictly personal)

Kalyani Shankar

Kalyani Shankar

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