Home / Opinion / Online-views /  Why Narendra Modi won’t build the Ram Mandir

All around us, we see the outrage and fear that if Narendra Modi becomes the prime minister, the very idea of India will be under serious threat. Modi will try to turn India into a Hindu fascist state—freedom will be curtailed, minorities will be hounded, institutions will be subverted. These fears are largely unfounded. Here’s why.

One, even if the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comes to power, it will do so with a thin majority. The more likely scenario is that it will need to co-opt smaller parties into the alliance to form a government. This will mean some hard negotiations and more than just promises. The even more likely case is that it will form a minority government with outside support from anti-Congress parties. In either case, the hardliners of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will have to moderate their stances on various issues significantly. Modi knows this well. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) knows this very well.

Modi also knows that governing India and governing a state like Gujarat are two different things. One cannot govern India without taking the minority communities along. Imposing majoritarian policies will only ensure that you will lose your allies and almost certainly lose the next elections. Narendra Modi is an extremely ambitious man. He believes he is a man of destiny and his dream is to be a prime minister who will be remembered glowingly in the history books. If he comes to power, one of his primary focus areas would be to make sure that he stays in power for 10 years. He can achieve that only if he concentrates on the real issues facing the average Indian today: employment, income, inflation, corruption. Majoritarian politics does not win general election in India, because the majority community is itself, by and large, secular, and—very rightly—more interested in economic well-being.

It is hardly a secret that almost all large Indian business houses are backing Modi. They are doing so because they believe that this man can bring in the economic policies that the country needs, push industrial growth and get India neon-lit on the global investment map once more. Bringing communalism into the government’s agenda is bad for business, bad for the economy. A big businessman, however devout a Hindu, is against stoking Ayodhya passions and letting the fanatics loose.

As is obvious, Modi is getting a positive response to his campaign because the people of India—from businessmen to the small farmer—want change. In 2009, the same people wanted continuity. The economy was performing well (though some of it was a lag effect of work done by the previous NDA government), there was generally great respect for Manmohan Singh, and—equally—the BJP had no national leader to offer but L.K. Advani, who, in turn, had nothing to offer but rath yatras, and rath yatras were long past their sell-by date.

Then, stability turned to stasis, the UPA-II government was hit by some of the biggest scams in the history of independent India, and Singh’s public image took a dramatic beating. He is surely not to be blamed entirely for this, but as he retires, much of India believes him to have been a weak and ineffectual Prime Minister. The people are hankering for a strong leader who will be decisive, active and efficient.

The Congress campaign has almost entirely been about Modi’s Hindutva and divisiveness. This is partly because the Congress doesn’t have much of a story to tell about itself, but also, and perhaps more importantly, because it is desperate to consolidate the Muslim vote and keep the BJP’s tally in the Hindi belt down by 30 seats from it needs to have a fighting chance to form a government. If the divisive appeal works, and the BJP ends up with 180 seats instead of 210, it will have to sit in the opposition. The government will then be formed by an alliance of regional parties supported by the Congress from outside, or a broad Congress-led alliance. That is the crux of the Congress strategy—to keep the BJP out of power by any means.

The BJP and Modi are aware of this. So, the positive part of the Modi’s campaign has been built on the need for economic prosperity and that Hindus and Muslims should make this common cause. The negative part of course is constant attacks on the UPA government and the Gandhi dynasty.

Which is why Modi has kept scrupulously away from the Ram Mandir and the other big divisive issues in his speeches. And because he knows that if becomes the prime minister, he will have to take a lot of people along with him to survive and to win the next one, he will not even attempt to build one at Ayodhya. He will not even think about it until and unless he manages to win the next Lok Sabha elections with a clear mandate. And that he will be able to, only if he can deliver on all the economic promises that he is making every day.

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