Just ahead of elections, Ram Temple issue is firmly back on the BJP agenda. Addressing the BJP party workers in UP on Wednesday, the BJP chief Amit Shah urged them to remove any confusion in their minds about his party’s seriousness about the construction of the temple. Already, the centre has moved the Supreme Court seeking permission for release of what it called the non-disputed” land around the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site to its original owners. This is seen as an attempt by the party to address demands of Right-wing groups. In fact, now a chorus seems to be building up for the construction of Mandir. Shiv Sena on Thursday pitched for the construction of the temple, saying the issue should not become as complicated as the Kashmir problem, which is still awaiting resolution.
Calls for the temple also reverberated at Kumbh Mela. An influential Hindu seer has announced that saints will march to Ayodhya and lay the foundation stone for the temple on February 21. If anything, it shows the BJP has resorted to a strident Hindutva stance in the run up to general elections. Ram Mandir is becoming front and center of the BJP campaign. So much so that some top-ranking BJP leaders wanted the case about the mandir in the Supreme Court to be expedited. Also, they are not ready to accept any other ruling except a permission to construct the mandir. No less a person than the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has sought the enactment of a law to get around the case about the Mandir in Supreme Court.
The BJP is certain to try every trick in its playbook to get back into political reckoning. Having miserably failed on economic and governance front, the party will return to its time-tested Hindutva agenda to fire up its support base. This includes reducing the political discourse to gutter level. It also includes polarization on a mass scale: deploying wedge issues and appealing to basest instincts of the people to try to hone a friendly constituency into shape. Also, the party might also resort to populist economic measures to drum up support. In its armoury for the polls, the BJP will include everything: development, a polarizing politics, Kashmir, Pakistan, Ram Mandir etc.
But if the outcome of the recent elections in five states is anything to go by, such negative politics seems past its sell-by date. And the besides taking concrete steps to improve the state of economy, the BJP will need to engage in a constructive politics to regain the trust of voters. The party can only ignore this message at its peril. Hate and polarization are potent weapons in electoral politics but their appeal is always short-lived.
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