A lot has changed since the demolition of Babri Masjid on a fateful day of December 6, 1991. The Ram Mandir issue has occupied the centre stage in national political discourse. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court also rejected the submission by Sunni Waqf Board and others to postpone the hearing of appeals in the sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute until July 2019. Arguing this for Sunni Waqf Board, senior lawyer and seasoned Congressman Kapil Sibal argued, “I do believe that any decision in this case will have very serious ramifications and the appeals should be referred to a five or seven judge constitution bench. Do not say ‘no, no, no’. Please hear the matter keeping in mind the ramifications…”
There is also an apparent shift in Congress and other opposition parties’ stand on the issue. Though there is no clarity on whether the opposition, soon-to-be-led by Rahul Gandhi, wants Ram Mandir be constructed on the disputed site in Ayodhya or not, but they are certainly less offensive on the issue as compared to the past.
For years following the demolition of the mosque by kar sevaks, the opposition were on the offensive, even disrupting the Parliament while the BJP was left to defend the demolition and the construction of the Ram Temple as a matter of faith.
As Gujarat election 2017 looms large, the opposition is no more raking up the issue of the demolition which took place, as Pratap Bhanu Mehta says, when “piety was replaced by a will to power. The cultural ideal that Ram constituted was finally reduced to a single point” and the “events of December 6, 1992 assaulted both secularism and Hinduism, and the consequences are still to play out fully.”
Recently, the Congress has adopted soft Hindutva, with its leader Rahul Gandhi making appearances in a number of temples in Gujarat. The Congress has even promoted the Brahmanical traits of Gandhi, saying he is a ‘janeudhari’ (wears Sacred Thread). The Congress strategy has been two-pronged: On the surface, it is targeting the ruling BJP on issues of development, job losses, demonetisation, GST. But the party has quietly adopted soft Hindutva by not speaking against Babri demolition or even the Gujarat riots of 2002 for which it waged war against then state CM, and now PM Narendra Modi, for over a decade.
For BJP, the Congress’ and other parties’ silence on Ram Mandir issue is a win-win situation. Its top leaders, ranging for BJP chief Amit Shah to UP CM Yogi Adityanath and its ideological mentors from the RSS, are not apologetic about the issue and openly batting for the construction of a ‘Bhavya Ram Mandir’ in Ayodhya.
BJP leader Ram Madhav on Tuesday articulated the BJP’s stand on the issue, saying it is a “one way street” for the party. The BJP had joined the Ram Mandir movement through the Palampur resolution of 1998. Writing in The Indian Express, Madhav shared an interesting anecdote, which also gives an insight into how things have changed in 25 years.
“When the movement was launched, we didn’t have too many arguments to satisfy the “eminent intellectuals” of our country and abroad. We were inspired by the simple yet profound desire to see the Ram Mandir come upon the very spot which was believed to be his birthplace,” Madhav wrote. That all major political parties have apparently quietly accepted what has been BJP’s eternal desire, is a win-win situation for the saffron party. But then, now who will talk about ‘Vikas’, Secularism?