Hindutva and Ram temple at Ayodhya two issues on which the BJP has often pegged its politics seems to have been given a quiet burial in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The controversial issues did not find any mention in the three Vijay Shankhnad rallies that partys prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressed at Kanpur,Jhansi and Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh. Instead,Modi focused on issues pertaining to farmers,development and national security.
In Kanpur rally,Modi spoke on poverty and worsening law and order in UP. In Jhansi,he had targeted Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for remark that Muslim youth from riot-affected Muzaffarnagar were being targeted by Pakistani intelligence agencies.
It was expected that he may raise the issue of Ram temple at Bahraich rally as the district falls in Awadh region,which covers 12 other districts and cities including Ahodhya where Ram Janmabhoomi is located. The VHPs 84-kosi parikrama taken out with support of local BJP leaders for the cause of Ram temple had also passed through Bahraich.
However,Modis speech remained focused on terrorism and national security even as Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath raised slogans of Ram Janmabhoomi Ki Jai,Kashi Vishwanath Ki Jai and Har-Har Mahadev.
Incidentally,Yogi who was earlier arrested while going to attend VHPs Sankalp Sabha for creation of Ram temple,remained mum on the issue during his address.
Senior leader Vinay Katiyar and former party MP Ram Vilas Vedanti too raised slogans of Jai Sree Ram during the rally,but talked only about national security during their speeches as did local MLA Sadhvi Savitri Bai Phule.
Former chief minister Kalyan Singh,accompanying Modi in his rallies,has also not touched the two issues.
However,when contacted,Yogi said,BJP has not moved away from any agenda. The fight against terrorism is itself a fight for Hindutva.
On Ram temple,the MP said,There is no need for the party to speak on the issue again and again as every one knows that BJP will keep the promise it made about Ram Janmabhoomi if it gets clear majority in LS elections.
BJP national secretary and UP co-incharge,Rameshwar Chaurasiya,said,The Ram temple issue is pending in Supreme Court and hence BJP,as a political party,cannot promise to build it.
He said party is focussing on corruption,price rise and terrorism as these issues affect the common man.
Jan Samvad,a sub-committee under BJPs Central Election Campaign Committee,which is chaired by Modi,had earlier collected feedback from the masses on 15 issues including corruption,price rise and Ram Temple to rate their seriousness ahead of the elections. The most serious issues were to be included in partys agenda.
A member of the committee said,Ram temple was rated as an important issue by the common public but corruption,price rise and national security got more ratings,hence the focus on them.
Incidentally,while the party is maintaining a silence on Tam temple and Hindutva issues,Modis close associate and BJP in-charge of UP,Amit Shah,had visited Ayodhya in July and offered prayers at the make-shift temple. He had then said that he had prayed for construction of a grand temple there.
Why the two issues matter for BJP<\b>
The issues of constructing a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya and Hindutva had propelled BJPs rise not only Uttar Pradesh but also across country. BJP had won only eight of 85 Lok Sabha seats in UP in 1989 elections. But when Ram Janmabhoomi movement gained pace,its kitty swelled to 51 of out of 80 seats in the state in 1991; 52 in 1996 and 58 in 1998. Incidentally,it was 1998 only when the BJP did well in UP and Atal Behari Vajpayee became the prime minister. Since then the party has been on a downhill slide,winning just 10 Lok Sabha seats in 2009. At present,BJP has only one MP and six MLAs in Awadh region,which comprises 16 Lok Sabha constituencies and 82 Assembly constituencies. Partys decline in region started as Ram temple issue lost its charm in public, said a party leader.