This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
2009, 2014: elections; 2019: campaign
BJP Focus More On Pulwama, Nationalism
For the first time since the temple movement picked up pace to become a political flashpoint, the Ram temple remains just a mention in the BJP manifesto and has no echo at any political rally or on the campaign trail in the 2019 elections. This is confirmed by the mood in Ayodhya, ground zero of the temple movement, on the eve of Ram Navami with not even a stray slogan of “mandir wahin banaiyenge” coming from the entrenched right-wing in the heart of the city. The Ram Rajya Rath that was flagged off last year, too, has lost steam and failed to trigger ripples when it rolled into Ayodhya on Friday with a handful of supporters in tow.
“Balakot is more emotive than Ayodhya for PM Narendra Modi,” says retired professor of Awadh University and state Sahitya Akademi award winner Ramshankar Tripathi, referring to how BJP is buoyed by the airstrikes on Pakistan. Lallu Singh, sitting MP and BJP candidate from Faizabad, the Lok Sabha seat of which Ayodhya is a part, is more candid. “Mandir nahi, rashtrawaad mudda hai. Mandir kabhi mudda thaa hi nahi. Hum to Modi ke naam pe jeetenge. (Nationalism, not temple, is the poll plank. We never sought votes for the temple. I will win on the Modi appeal),” he says.
At Karsevakpuram, where Gujarati artisans have kept chiselling away at Dholpur sandstone for 25 years now amid a mountain of decaying bricks inscribed with the words ‘Jai Sri Ram’, the VHP’s central secretary, Rajendra Pankaj, says. “Rashtrawad hi Ram hai (Nationalism and Ram are intrinsically linked)”, to explain why temple is no longer a poll issue.
No PM has visited Ayodhya since 1989, when Rajiv Gandhi flagged off the Congress poll campaign from the holy city. “We expected Ram-bhakt Modi to visit us once. But he, too, has given Ayodhya a miss,” said local resident Bholenath Pandey.
The irony cannot be missed in the midst of the political cacophony as all the protagonists of the Ram Temple movement are on the margins now, including twotime Faizabad MP and Ayodhya resident, Vinay Katiyar. Speaking to TOI, he said, “I am yet to be told by the high command to campaign for the BJP candidate. It’s not going to be a cakewalk for anyone.” Key Muslim litigant in the Babri-Ramjanmabhoomi case, Iqbal Ansari, has a different take. “The Ram Lalla temple is already there at the disputed site where at least 5,000 pilgrims offer prayers every day. Why should it be a poll plank for BJP?” he asked.
While the temple rhetoric is starkly missing for the first time in these polls, BJP stares at the formidable Dalit-Muslim-OBC consolidation of the gathbandhan in Faizabad.
“It will be another big political setback here for UP CM Yogi Adityanath like the Gorakhpur bypoll defeat. There will be a seamless vote transfer to the alliance from the backward, Muslim and Dalit voters,” said SP candidate Anand Sen, the son of the late Mitrasen Yadav, who had defeated BJP’s Katiyar in Faizabad in 1998, the year NDA made history by forming the government in Delhi.