A day after Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) declared that it was putting off its campaign for construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya till the Lok Sabha elections are over, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said the Sangh will take up building of the Ram temple after the polls.
The agitation will be resumed irrespective of the colour of the government, said Bhagwat, as per a report in The Times of India (TOI). Meaning, the new government will have to deal with it.
During closed-door interactions at the RSS office in Dehradun, Bhagwat reiterated his stand that the Ram temple will be built as per the “dharma sansad” held at Kumbh recently, reported TOI.
Initially, the ‘Dharma Sansad’ had threatened to start construction work near the disputed site in the third week of March. An address to the gathering by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had led to commotion when he had said the agitation should be postponed until a later date. The VHP spent much effort to convince Hindu saints to agree to postpone the agitation. Eventually, the Sangh Parivar leadership was able to strike a truce.
The VHP, which had held dharma sabhas across the country demanding an ordinance to enable construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and later held a Dharma Sansad at the Kumbh Mela on the issue last week, had announced on Tuesday its decision to postpone agitation on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue for the next four months until the Lok Sabha elections are over. This was decided at the recent Dharma Sansad in Prayagraj, the VHP said.
The announcement came barely a week after the BJP-led NDA government moved the Supreme Court seeking permission to return the 67 acres of land in Ayodhya — adjacent to the disputed site — to its original owners including the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas.
VHP international working president Alok Kumar told The Indian Express (IE) that the decision was taken “because everybody has a feeling that such agitations at the time of elections, including the demand of building a Ram temple, become a petty electoral issue and get involved into politics. It was felt that this issue should be saved from politics for the next four months.”
Asked what would the VHP’s stand be if the Supreme Court, hearing the title suits case, delivers a verdict, Kumar said: “Our plan is irrespective of the court order. If there is any emergency situation, then we will take guidance from the sants.” If the court proceedings are delayed, that, too, will not affect the VHP’s decision, he said.
Bhagwat, reported TOI, endorsed the VHP position that the demand will not be pursued at present as it will mire the Ayodhya issue in politicking and become a “petty election issue”.
An RSS functionary said, “Bhagwatji said that after the elections, irrespective of which government comes to power, the Sangh, along with religious leaders, would take action.” He added that Bhagwat did not spell out a specific date for building the temple but went on to state that “Ram temple and gau raksha” are the basis of Hindu culture and are must for bringing back the glory of Hindu culture.
In its recent resolution, the dharma sansad noted that with the election bugle to be sounded soon, “pseudo-secular” political forces are gathering in full force.
The VHP resolution passed at its Dharma Sansad in Prayagraj last week states: “An election is the national festival of democracy… The sant samaj shall not give the pseudo-secular pack the opportunity to drag this holy and important movement of Sri Ram Janmabhoomi into a political vortex and swamp. Therefore, we are not announcing any new phase of the movement now.” It adds that its ongoing programmes will continue.
The VHP justified its decision on the basis of a recent petition to the Supreme Court by the BJP-led government seeking permission to return 67 acres in Ayodhya to the original owners, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. The VHP resolution acknowledged this: “The Dharma Sansad welcomes this effort of the central government and expresses confidence that with this undisputed land, it will also make every possible effort to hand over the alleged disputed land to the Hindus promptly.”
RSS media head Arun Kumar said sant samaj and those demanding construction of the temple are satisfied with the government decision seeking handover of land around the Ram Lalla idol.
He said campaigns for mass awareness will continue, like a programme scheduled for April 6 where “Shriram Jairam” mantra will be chanted in temples across the country.
VHP spokesperson Vinod Bansal said the resolution was passed to put the agitation plan on hold in light of the Lok Sabha polls when there will be a code of conduct and restrictions in place. “Sant community felt that that there should not be any confrontation,” Bansal said.
The VHP and RSS’s decision to put the Ram temple agitation on hold till the Lok Sabha polls are over is a respite for BJP, which has been in a bind over the slow progress of the dispute in court.
The decision will give BJP political breathing space ahead of the elections.
An agitation for a temple during the campaign could have embarrassed the BJP, especially when NDA partners such as Lok Janshakti Party have clarified that Ayodhya is not an issue for them. It also preempts criticism from opposition parties about why the temple issue was being revived just before the elections.
The essential message from the resolution appears to be that the VHP will support the BJP in the elections and will take up the Ram mandir issue only after that. As Bhagwat said at the Dharma Sansad: “Whatever programme we take in the coming days, it will impact the election atmosphere.”
Analysts see the postponement of Ram mandir agitation as a decision that segues with Narendra Modi government’s recent decisions – like 10 per cent reservation for general category persons earning up to Rs. 8 lakhs a year, income tax waiver up to Rs 5 lakh income and Rs.6,000 income support to small and marginal farmers – that would help blunt the voters’ anger. The Sangh parivar, they say, thus believes it doesn’t need to resort to raking up the temple issue in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
Another reason to revive agitation after Lok Sabha
There is however, the flip side. Given the fact that the purpose of Ram temple agitation is primarily to extract political mileage, the decision may well be the result of a realisation that efforts of a joint opposition front may materialise and Modi government gets voted out.
In that scenario, the newly elected coalition government with its diverse pulls and pressures would face an unsettling problem of a virulent, aggressive Ram mandir campaign even before it begins to find its feet.
The formidable propaganda apparatus of the BJP and the RSS would hammer into people’s heads the contrast between Narendra Modi’s ‘strong 56 inch government’ and a ‘weak and indecisive’ rag-tag coalition. The BJP would spare no effort to pull it down: it had a similar approach after the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections when UPA was voted to power.