Though it may sound strange,BJPs chief election campaigner Narendra Modis pointsman in Uttar Pradesh Amit Shahs declaration of intent on Ram temple in Ayodhya has been welcomed with glee in both Opposition and ruling camps. Preceded by L K Advanis reiteration of the demand for abrogation of Article 370 and Modis advocacy of Uniform Civil Code,Shahs remarks were meant to signal the opposition partys return to Hindutva to be spearheaded by its new vikas purush Modi,notwithstanding party president Rajnath Singhs obvious obfuscation on the issue in Amritsar on Sunday.
With torchbearers of secularism already working on polarisation virtually vouching for Ishrat Jahans innocence even before any judicial ruling and,in UP,withdrawing cases against innocent terror accused the Modi-led BJPs haste to unmask its core agenda seemed inexplicable. The BJPs highest tally in the Lok Sabha was 182. With both Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee sought to be morphed into Modi,the BJP may be hoping to reach,if not surpass,that tally. But,there is a gap of one-and-a-half decades between 1999 and 2014 and India is no longer the same. The middle class may be willing,howsoever grudgingly,to let bygones be bygones and cheer for Modi but they may not be inclined to don saffron robes and collect bricks for the temple.
The ruling camp,on the other hand,has its own reasons to celebrate. People may attribute 2004 results to weaker or stronger alliances entered into by the Congress and the BJP or to some other factors,but,to us,the 2002 carnage in Gujarat undid their (NDAs) India Shining story, said an AICC general secretary. The Congress would love to have a secular-communal debate in the next elections,especially because it would take the focus off omissions and commissions of UPA II. As Manmohan Singh-P Chidambaram duo work overtime to arrest the slide in the economy,the ruling camps hopes to woo the middle class back to the government that is trying or,at least,is seen to be trying may not be misplaced,especially when juxtaposed against an Opposition that only knows how to obstruct and veto any policy initiative without presenting any alternative vision. Modi had started on a positive note showcasing his development agenda,for whatever it is worth,but straying into the much-trodden but long-forsaken path of Hindutva is a gambit he could have done without. The BJPs chief campaigner is,however,said to be a master tactician who,one assumes,would have his own reasons for fielding Shah to invoke Lord Ram.
DK is a senior editor based in Delhi