Ram Temple: Shiv Sena’s Hindutva masterstroke to corner BJP
New Delhi, Nov 24: It is quite unprecedented that two parties - both staunch believers in saffron politics - are at odds over the core Rem Temple issue. It is an irony that the Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have escalated the issue to build the temple when a BJP-led government is at the Centre with brute majority. PV Narasimha Rao must be turning in his graves but that is how the politics in contemporary India is being played out.
For the Sena, this was always an opportunity to grab with both hands and it is doing so, even if it has to reach out to another territory. Its chief Uddhav Thackeray has come up with a slogan "Pehle Mandir, Phir Sarkar" to mobilise the majority sentiments during his visit to Ayodhya, particularly against the BJP which is being accused now of not utilising its authority to build the temple.
The Sena has refused to consider it as a political game but it is amply clear that the party is now trying its best to capitalise on an issue which can put it on a strong pedestal vis-à-vis the BJP of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, against which it has faced electoral humiliation in Maharashtra in the past.
Today's BJP can't be that of 1992 again & Sena knows that
The Sena knows that it is difficult for the BJP today to return solely to the 1992 days and focus only on the majoritarian mobilisation. As a party which has completed 10 years in power now (Vajpayee's six plus Modi's four), the BJP is more identified as a force which prioritises development and uplift than religious majoritarianism to mobilise support and votes as was the case in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
As a young party ambitious of creating a new alternative to the Congress's 'politics of appeasement of minorities', the BJP was more raw and ruthless in its approach in those days. Today, the same can not be expected of the lotus party because it now as a responsible task of governance on its shoulders.
Uddhav knows that it the BJP's biggest strength is also its weakness today and hence is putting more pressure on it over the Ram Temple issue. By making slogans like "Temple first, government later", the Sena leadership is at once devaluing Modi's pro-development slogans and it will interesting to see how the BJP counters this onslaught.
Uddhav keeps on putting more pressure on Modi govt
While he dares the Modi government to give a date for the construction of the temple, he also likens it to Kumbhakarna (the brother of King Ravana who slept six months a year). These pressure tactics are not applied without a thought since the BJP leadership can't directly confront them and risk alienating the key constituencies. The BJP had played a similar politics two-and-half decades earlier and now the Sena is doing the same.
Sena settling political scores with BJP?
The Sena has a lot of scores to settle with the BJP. One, it is more of a frenemy of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance and not content with playing a secondary role to Modi's outfit in Maharashtra where it was once the senior ally. By creating a stir in Uttar Pradesh, which is a major pillar of the strong BJP today, the Sena has a feeling that it is giving back to the BJP in its den.
Secondly, the Sena needs to rediscover it ahead of the Lok Sabha elections so that it can do better than the BJP in Maharashtra which sends 48 MPs to the Lok Sabha - the second highest number after UP. For that purpose, nothing suits more than the Ram Temple issue. Like the BJP of the early 1990s, the Sena today has nothing to lose but a whole lot to gain by mobilising majoritarian sentiments.
Since the BJP has put its focus more on the agenda of development up front, the Sena found it a golden opportunity to hijack the core issue of Hindutva from the BJP and leave its internal order in disarray. If Uddhav succeeds in making the most of the November 24-25 visit to Ayodhya in national politics, then Modi-Shah duo will have its task cut out to mollify the conservative constituencies of the party.
With great power, comes great responsibility. The BJP will be in a dilemma today over using that responsibility. The Sena and VHP will be not. The difference lies there.