BJP’s temple gamble a Cong opportunityhttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/bjps-temple-gamble-a-cong-opportunity/

BJP’s temple gamble a Cong opportunity

Though it may sound strange,BJP’s chief election campaigner Narendra Modi’s pointsman in Uttar Pradesh Amit Shah’s

Though it may sound strange,BJP’s chief election campaigner Narendra Modi’s pointsman in Uttar Pradesh Amit Shah’s declaration of intent on Ram temple in Ayodhya has been welcomed with glee in both Opposition and ruling camps. Preceded by L K Advani’s reiteration of the demand for abrogation of Article 370 and Modi’s advocacy of Uniform Civil Code,Shah’s remarks were meant to signal the opposition party’s return to Hindutva to be spearheaded by its new ‘vikas purush’ Modi,notwithstanding party president Rajnath Singh’s obvious obfuscation on the issue in Amritsar on Sunday.

With torchbearers of secularism already working on polarisation — virtually vouching for Ishrat Jahan’s innocence even before any judicial ruling and,in UP,withdrawing cases against “innocent” terror accused — the Modi-led BJP’s haste to unmask its core agenda seemed inexplicable. The BJP’s 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 (NDA’s) 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 camp’s 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 BJP’s 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

dk.singh@expressindia.com