Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr is a Delhi-based journalist, who’s worked with Indian Express in multiple editions, and with DNA in Delhi. He has also written for Deccan Herald, Times of India, Gulf News (Dubai), Daily Star (Beirut) and Today (Singapore). He is now Senior Editor with Parliamentarian
Does the BJP have the strength to resist the pressure from the RSS, VHP and the ochre-robed folks?
The Ayodhya dispute has been on the boil from 1989 onwards, when the ‘shilanyas’ took place in the final days of Rajiv Gandhi’s term in office. In 1990, there was LK Advani’s ‘rath yatra’ from Somnath to Ayodhya, with Hindu-Muslim riots in its trail. In 1992, the ostensible ‘kar seva’ turned into a criminal act of demolition of Barbri Masjid, followed by Hindu-Muslim riots. Even as riots broke out in Gujarat in the wake of the burning of the coach in Sabarmati Express carrying VHP volunteers from Ayodhya on February 28, 2002, the VHP and the rest of the ochre-folk were agitating for another ‘shilanyas’ and they were allowed to do so.
In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, with the BJP under Narendra Modi seeking a second term, the RSS, the VHP and the ochre-folk are raising their voice, and indirectly their fists, threatening an agitation to force the government to bring a law to build the temple, and showing a clear unwillingness to wait for the Supreme Court verdict.
It is quite evident that the trouble-mongers of the temple are not willing to accept the Supreme Court verdict if it were to go against the building of the temple. What the RSS and the rest expect the BJP government of Modi to do is to enact a law overruling the Supreme Court if the need arises for that. It also means that the RSS, VHP and the rest are not willing to persuade the Muslim community and win their consent for the temple to be built at the site of the illegally demolished mosque. They want to assert the brute strength of numbers. They want to intimidate the Muslims, disregard Muslim opinion and build the temple.
The old animal instinct of might is right governs the Hindutva crowd. They scream about ‘dharma’ in the so-called Dharma Sabha and the Dharma Sansad but they don’t care two hoots for dharma or righteousness. The man for whom they want to build a temple, Rama, was described by astronomer-poet Valmiki in his kavya (a literary creation) Ramayanam as “ramo vigrahavan dharma’ (Rama the embodiment of righteousness)’, and here we have the lawless and irreligious mob baying for blood over a temple for Rama.
There is a feeling that the BJP and the Modi government are quite complicit in the noises that the RSS and the VHP and the rest are making, and that the BJP is not averse to using the temple plank to win the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Modi wants to fall back on the temple plank because he has failed to fulfill the development agenda about which he boasted for the last four-and-a-half-years. He is nervous and anxious that he may lose the election, that he may not get the majority.
Perhaps, he need not fear, need not tremble. Perhaps he will win and he will get more numbers in 2019 than he got in 2014. But he is not sure. He does not want to take the risk of putting aside the temple issue. He is not sure, however, when to jump on to the temple bandwagon.
He is now referring to it as a way of criticising the Congress’ attempts to stall the temple construction, but he has not so far made any commitment of his own that his government will build the temple if it is returned to power. Perhaps he will assess the situation and make that fatal – it would be fatal because it would show India as a country of brute majority with no respect for law – commitment when he stares defeat in the face, and the temple would be his weapon of last resort. The temple question would be a test case for the BJP, whether it is a political party like any other, or it is a politico-religious party like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and it would force the Hindu agenda on a multi-religious and multi-cultural country like India.
India will survive the Hindutva nightmare because she will continue to live on for centuries and millennia after the BJP is buried in the debris of history. It is indeed a difficult time for the BJP. It cannot pretend to be a nationalist party if it become a party for temple construction on a disputed site, and it would not abide by the rule of law.