Why efforts by RSS, VHP to build Ram temple won’t have an impact
People suspect if it is a genuine effort... they are suspicious of the timing as it is happening just before polls
The mobilization led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) may not have any immediate and significant impact. One of the reasons is that its credibility is under doubt on whether it is a genuine effort. People are suspicious of the timing because it is happening just before polls.
Even those who may have wanted to trust and those emotionally attached to the issue are raising doubts—one, that the credibility is under question, two, that the timing of it seems wrong and, three, that the expansion of the movement has not taken place.
Last time, the effort spanned more than two years, which included L.K. Advani’s rath yatra. If they start now and build a constant movement then the impact will be visible only after 1.5 or 2 years. Steps like a dharam sansad just before a Parliament session will have an impact on politicians and can create pressure. Parliamentarians in general and those from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in particular may be under pressure but it may not have any impact on common people.
In a way, this issue is a faded memory; now it will be a big task to rejuvenate it. If they make it an electoral issue, then it has the potential to polarize, specially under a broad Hindutva framework with an anti-Muslim narrative. However, to the common public, this seems like an election stunt. However, the impact will not be the same when compared to the original movement which helped the BJP increase its electoral presence in Lok Sabha.
As long as the issue fails to attain mass movement status and remains only a VHP effort, it will not have the same impact. This time around too, they seem to be focusing only on parliamentarians and not the common public.
The BJP had promised to build greater consensus on Ram mandir in its 2014 manifesto and some of the core party supporters may hold it responsible for not doing enough. However, even if they question the BJP, their votes may continue to go in their favour.
While everyone in the party is on the same page in terms of their stance, a section within the party is in a dilemma on whether it is the right time to raise the issue, while another section feels it is.
We often see that even party spokespersons do not take a very well-defined line on the issue because their party is in power and they have to be prepared for the pros and cons of bringing a bill to this effect. I think there is confusion within the BJP’s ranks.
In my opinion, the opposition too is in a dilemma. A party like the Congress cannot say that a Ram temple should not be built and so it is staying with the stand that there are legal procedures in place and a consensus should be built based on constitutional practices. There can be a limited argument for and against on whether there should be an ordinance route or not.
Badri Narayan is director of Allahabad-based Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute.
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