19 years after Babri demolition, Ram temple on backburner?

New Delhi : Almost two decades after the Babri mosque in Ayodhya was demolished by right-wing activists in the presence of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, the politics of Hindutva appear to have lost steam and the demand for the Ram temple less strident.

The 16th century mosque was razed Dec 6, 1992 by Hindu mobs, who claimed it stood on the birthplace of Lord Ram and wanted a grand Ram temple constructed there.

While the Congress and the Left parties allege that the BJP had exploited the sentiments of the Hindus for political gains, the BJP maintains it has not given up the Ram temple issue but is giving primacy to other matters too.

The BJP had never been serious about the Ram temple, but exploited the sentiments of the Hindu community for political gains, Congress general secretary Rashid Alvi said .

“Their (BJP’s) political graph has come down because of their divisive politics over the Ram mandir (temple),” he said.

“Now they do not talk much about the issue,” claimed Alvi.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai told IANS that the Babri demolition had seriously harmed the democratic polity and secular fabric of the country.

“But the passions have subsided and they are losing support,” Pillai said about the BJP-supported Ram temple movement.

BJP chief Nitin Gadkari however told reporters recently that the party has not given up the Ram temple issue, but was giving more stress on economic issues.

“I am from a new generation and it is natural that economic issues will receive emphasis, as also GDP, politics of development, progress, besides nationalism and good governance,” he said.

“Unfortunately the BJP has been given a tag of being communal which we are trying to remove,” he added.

But, Mridula Mukherjee, professor in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said it was an illusion if anyone believed that the BJP will shed its communal and Hindutva agenda, which according to political observers, played a major role in its steep rise – from two Lok Sabha seats in 1984 to 85 in 1989 and to 119 in 1991.

According to Mukherjee, there are pushes and pulls in the BJP which will bring the Ram temple issue to the fore and backburner occasionally.

“But the core of the party remains to be the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) and the hardliners,” she added.

The BJP will though find it hard to raise the issue much while it heads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with even its key ally, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) terming the demolition a “sad incident in our political history”.

JD-U general secretary Javed Raza told IANS that the Babri demolition was a sad incident and a solution should be attempted through dialogue or judicial process.

On the ground, the day is unlikely to be tension-filled as it was in the 1990s. However, the union home ministry has asked the Uttar Pradesh government to step up security measures in Ayodhya and other communally sensitive places in the state on the anniversary.

It may have seemed the issue had achieved closure when in September last year, the Allahabad High Court ordered the division of the site of the razed mosque into three parts – two to Hindu institutions and one to the Sunni Waqf board.

However, both Hindu and Muslim groups appealed the verdict and the Supreme Court stayed the order in May 2011 saying the high court verdict was “strange and surprising”.

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