By Sushil Kutty
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has spoken. And the timing is telling, just in time for a clutch of assembly elections in 2023, and the big one in 2024. Shah announced that a grand Ram temple will be inaugurated in Ayodhya on January 1, 2024. That means the Bharatiya Janata Party will go into the 2023 assembly elections, and the 2024 general elections with the successful completion of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir as one of its main poll planks, if not the main. Shah said the ‘gagan-chumbi’ Ram Mandir will be ready for a January 1, 2024 inauguration, just in time for campaigning for the 2024 general elections to kick-up a storm.
Amit Shah broke the news at a public meeting in the town of Sabroom in Tripura, bordering Bangladesh. Some people promptly linked it to Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which had come in for wholesome praise from some RSS leaders who are actively involved in the construction of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir.
This would be too simplistic an explanation. For one, it’s too ad hoc to digest. Then again, it cannot be left to chance that a date for the inauguration has been announced to the world at large the day after BJY took off from Delhi after a year-end break and entered Uttar Pradesh, where temple politics is “Sanjeevni” for the BJP.
Also, this is a first, announcing the date for a Ram temple inauguration, even for the Union Home Minister. And if it’s the Bharat Jodo Yatra which is making BJP and RSS leaders act strangely out of character, then Bharat Jodo Yatra and Rahul Gandhi must be having an impact on the electorate, making BJP leaders stumble with every step Rahul Gandhi is taking.
The fact that the Ram Mandir Trust secretary Champat Rai expressed awe at a “young man walking on foot” was “worth appreciating”. What next? The RSS is known for switching allegiance for reasons best known to itself, and the BJP must be wondering when? Perhaps it (RSS) sees potential in Rahul Gandhi which the BJP doesn’t.
Calling the bearded Rahul Gandhi “a young man” has added to the RSS compliment. “A young man has been walking on foot in this cold weather, it is praiseworthy. The young man is trying to understand the nation and walking for 3000 km. We will only praise it.” Shouldn’t such wholesome praise for the BJP’s main political adversary make Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah nervous and jumpy?
That said, the Tripura assembly elections are due in March 2023, and Tripura is over 80 percent Hindu. Therefore, a “grand Ram Mandir” has the potential to sway voters in Tripura. Also, the RSS praise for Rahul Gandhi must have rattled the BJP. Enough for Shah to harangue the Congress, and Rahul Gandhi, for their anti-temple stance.
Shah charged the Congress for delaying the Ram Mandir “from the time Babur destroyed it and left” till “Modiji came one morning, (and) the Supreme Court order came”. He reminded the Tripura electorate of 2019 when “I was president of the BJP and Rahul Baba was president of the Congress” and Rahul Gandhi would not tell a date for the Ram Mandir.
The Union Home Minister asked Rahul to “open his ears and listen”, the Ayodhya Ram Mandir will be ready for a January 1, 2024 inauguration, a “skyscraping Ram temple”, adding that Modi rule has helped revive India’s cultural heritage.
Tripura will be the first of nine states to go to polls in 2023, including Karnataka, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. And Shah seemed to keep the “BJP’s development model” election plank in reserve, saying Tripura could very well be the “most prosperous” among small states in another five years.
Clearly, the BJP, as it approaches election year 2024, doesn’t seem sure about an electoral strategy. The Ram temple issue has been flogged enough. And attempts to make Gyanvapi and “Mathura” issues aren’t working up to expectations. Also, something like Balakote requires a Pulwama.
Besides, Pakistan also cannot be flogged ad infinitum. Not when Rahul Gandhi is keeping the China pot boiling. Yet, Shah cannot stop from talking of “Pakistani intruders” and “Uri and Pulwama terror attacks”. If wily is a fox, then the BJP is coloured indigo! (IPA Service)