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‘Ram Mandir’ is Modi's last bet to ensure return

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Murmurs around the Ram Temple issue and a possible push towards its construction have been growing in the political circles. It's not hard to see why.

Narendra Modi

The surveys for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections have started. And they seem to be agreeing with what many political analysts have been saying ever since BJP's direct loss to the Congress in the state assembly elections in the Hindi Belt late last year.

Ram Temple construction to begin on February 21

As things stand today, BJP is going to lose seats. NDA is going to lose seats. Enough to not be able to reach a majority even together. A mark the saffron party had reached on its own last time around.

This is largely credited to a projected loss of over 50 seats (thanks to the SP-BSP alliance) in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh and further losses in north-central India. Something that could be detrimental to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's chances of coming back to power.

Making BJP's task to catch up in these states, that gave Modi his phenomenal rise in 2014, a must. Particularly since BJP president, Amit Shah's attempts to make up for those losses by gaining in states like Bengal are unlikely to give significant results.

This is where the issue of Ram Temple, that once helped BJP rise to national prominence, may now come to help Modi.

The Ram Janmabhoomi movement and Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya, UP, are widely credited for the rise of the BJP as a national player. In fact, the saffron party came to power at the centre in less than a decade after the mosque was brought down.

Construction of the temple (a long-standing demand) or a major push on it, like an ordinance or something similar, has the potential to bring similarly rich rewards for Modi too (And no action might cause irreparable damage). But with the matters related to it pending in the Supreme Court of India, any possible push has been tricky.

And given the unwavering popularity that Modi enjoyed till last year, it wasn't even felt required. That's no longer the case, with his government finding itself under attack from the opposition on the governance front.

Made worse by a challenge to the unprecedented consolidation of the Hindu vote, that Modi had achieved in 2014. This has come in the form of the SP-BSP alliance and its caste-based arithmetic. Added to by Congress president, Rahul Gandhi's adoption of 'Soft Hindutva.' These threats were for all to see in the two Lok Sabha bypoll defeats the BJP suffered in UP last year.

For the prime minister, reconsolidation of the Hindu vote looks like the best bet to counter them. A major push on temple front might be the last political move left for Modi to achieve it. Though risky, it almost guarantees a second term. Especially, as it will get him the Hindu vote not only in UP but the whole of the Hindi Belt.

Something that Modi seems to have realised. His mention of an ordinance on the issue (another long-standing demand), in his first television interview of the year, is clearly not a coincidence. This has been followed by his government's latest move to seek permission before the Supreme Court to give back 67 acres of land it had acquired around the disputed land in Ayodhya to the original owners. A decision Union Minister Prakash Javadekar hinted as something that could very well pave way for the construction of Ram Mandir.

What impact will Centre's plea to return excess land have in the Ayodhya case

Five years ago, the majority that Modi had won was as much for the anger felt amongst the masses against a decade long reign of the Congress government (for alleged corruption and other issues) and his promise of development, as it was for him being seen as a 'Hindu leader.'

And reclaiming the title might be his only way to ensure his return. So a move on this front before the elections are announced might not totally be out of the blue.

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