Election Season and Return of Lord Ram

 

Ram Puniyani

 

Lord Ram has served the BJP very well so far. It was the Ram temple issue around which seeds of the divisive politics were sown all over the country. The Rath yatra of Lal Krishna Advani precipitated and was followed by the trail of violence following it. The well planned Babri demolition further intensified the communal violence and the politics in the name of religion in the country. The reward of this was the strengthening of the electoral base of BJP, due to which BJP gradually came to the fore and from a marginal party in the national scheme of things it emerged as the single largest party in 1996. Now with the 2014 elections it managed to get the simple majority (282 Lok Sabha seats, with 31% of votes). The promise of building the temple has been constantly on the agenda of this party but that has been a carrot which cannot materialize as a construction but can keep serving BJP’s purpose of deceiving the people. It’s another matter that even other tall promises of this party are made as mere electoral phrases like ‘Acche Din’ or getting back black money in six months time.

 

This promise of Ram Temple is a great allurement for sections of society. This promise has been made despite well knowing that the issue is pending in Supreme Court and it cannot be built legally. RSS combine also knows that demolitions can be incited illegally while constructions cannot be done illegally, still they can serve as an important electoral tool to polarize the communities along religious lines.

 

So, as UP elections are approaching the issue of Ram Temple is being invoked yet again. In the Dushera rally in Lucknow Prime Minister Modi invoked the slogan of Jai Shree Ram (October 2016). This was the battle cry of RSS combine as a build up to Babri demolition. Few days later, while inaugurating the power plant Modi was greeted with the same war cry symbolic of Hindu nationalism which has been the agenda of BJP-RSS. To supplement the efforts in the communal direction BJP declared the project of Ram Museum in Ayodha and not to be left behind the UP Government of Akhilesh Yadav decided to declare about the Ram Leela theme park around this time. As such Ram temple is the trade mark of BJP politics but seeing the electoral dividends which it has yielded for the BJP, other parties are also trying to jump in to this gimmick. Even Rahul Gandhi of Congress during his Kisan Yatra paid a visit to Hanuman Gadhi temple in Ayodhya.

 

To keep the pot boiling Vinay Katiyar of BJP, who was part of the demolition squad in 1992, said that the museum-theme park is not the real thing, they are mere lolly pops, real thing i.e. temple has to be built up. While RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat has been declaring that the temple will be built in his life time, other worthies from RSS combine have been making different noises like the temple will be constructed during the regime of current Modi Government. As such as per the Allahabad high court judgment; the land of the Babri mosque should be divided into three parts. As per this only one third of the land has gone to the Babri Masjid Action committee, another one third to Ram Shila Nyas and another third to Ram lalla. This judgment took people’s faith as the foundation for doing this opinion. This must have been a rare case where prevalent faith of people has been made the ground for the judgment. History has been mixed up with faith.

 

Lord Ram has been a strong cultural, religious and mythological entity in this part of the South Asia. While giving the affidavit about the Ram Setu issue the UPA Government did say that Lord is a mythological figure. This statement is being heavily criticized by spokespersons of RSS, forgetting the clear cut distinction between History and mythology. One can’t deny the existence of the Lord at cultural and mythological level, still to say that it is history is altogether a different matter.

 

With the rise of communal politics; on one hand Lord Ram is being presented as a historical figure, that’s how communalists wanted to claim the Babri Masjid land on the ground that this was his place of birth. On the other hand the cultural existence of Ram is being reduced to mere religious one. One recalls that Dr. M. M. Basheer an important scholar of Ramayana from Kerala was forced to stop his column on Ramayana in the newspaper for his being a Muslim. Similarly famous actor Nawajuddin Siddiqui was stopped from playing the role of Ramayan character Marich in his village RamLila for his being a Muslim. The communalization of Lord Ram is a sad part of the story.

 

As such during last few years, BJP’s assault on democratic values by playing communal games has been shifting the centre of gravity of Indian politics towards politics in the name of religion. That’s how Rahul Gandhi visited a temple in Ayodhya during his political campaign. That’s how now Samajvadi party on one hand is promoting theme parks like Ram Lila and on the other has been letting the violence go on in UP. Starting from Muzzafarnagar violence (2013) Samajvadi party has played a dubious role due to which BJP agenda of polarization has got a boost. The calculation of BJP is that low intensity communal violence will get it Hindu votes and on parallel lines Samajvadi party feels this violence will make Muslims vulnerable and they will gravitate to it for protection.

 

As such BJP now has equipped itself with many more emotive issues. It is out to politicize the surgical strike in its favor by claiming things like ‘it is for the first time such a brave act has taken place’. It is the inspiring leadership of Modi due to his training by RSS that such decisions are possible now. Falsehood and chest thumping are dominating a section of media. BJP also has beef to boost its electoral campaign.

 

The question remains, can such blatant electoral games keep going on in a country where the basic issues of survival, poor nutrition, health and declining employment avenues are glaring the society in the face?