Paying tributes to Ashok Singhal who had spearheaded the Ram mandir movement, BJP chief Amit Shah credited Singhal with being “the architect of the biggest mass movement in India post-independence” — a reference to the Ram temple movement; RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that the construction of the temple in Ayodhya would be a fitting tribute to the VHP leader who died last week. However, the construction of a temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya where a frenzied mob led by senior BJP leaders had demolished a 16th century Babri mosque is neither on the party’s nor on the NDA government’s agendas.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah-led BJP, even Mohan Bhagwat, are reconciled that their so-called agenda – the controversial Article 370 or temple construction – are no longer the primary issues. Almost all BJP leaders swear that “vikas” is the only agenda before the Prime Minister and the government.
“Any issue that is divisive or creates trouble in the path of development is unwelcome. In spite of lot of pressure from a section of the RSS, the PM has made it clear that development is what the government has to focus on,” said a BJP leader.
Recently in his article for the Economist, Modi wrote: “…my government has followed an approach of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (participation of all development for all). This democratic outlook guides our policy not just domestically but towards the neighborhood and larger foreign policy as well.”
So, Bhagwat’s remark on the construction of a Ram temple can be seen just as a tribute to Singhal who devoted his life to providing “Ram Lulla” an abode. Besides, BJP leaders say with “the existence of Ram temple in Ayodhya being proved beyond doubts”, the issue is just of constructing the temple and the matter is in court. As a responsible political party, the BJP will follow whatever the apex court says on the issue, the leaders added.
However, convincing its fringe elements and those who have dedicated their lives to the Ayodhya cause is a tough task for the BJP. Aiming to become a party with a reach from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the BJP has had to make compromises including forming an alliance with the PDP in Kashmir. Such compromises have made the party incapable of taking up contentious issues such as the abrogation of Article 370.
The only issue the party could safely take up was a ban on cow slaughter, especially because it’s a tricky issue for other political parties including the Congress. The BJP leaders’ repeated statements on the ban on cow slaughter and its eagerness to keep the issue alive could be seen as its strategy to push other more contentious issues onto the back burner. As long as the RSS backs the government on its agenda for governance, the fringe elements and even the VHP can be ignored.
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