Chandigarh: Firmly believing that the Ram Temple Pran Pratishtha ceremony in Ayodhya is a strategic political move, the BJP leadership in Haryana led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is eyeing a substantial vote bank uptick from religious fervor by ensuring a second successive win not only in the state’s 10 Lok Sabha seats but also a record third successive term months later in the assembly elections.
However, the main Opposition Congress seems to lack a clear strategy.
“The entire country and crores of people from across the world have participated in today’s happiness. Today has marked the beginning of a new era,” was the first reaction of Khattar, an RSS man, soon after the Pran Pratishtha ceremony in Ayodhya on January 22.
Missing no opportunity to take a potshot at the political rivals in the Hindi belt, Khattar added, “He (Rahul Gandhi) should have come to Ayodhya like others, but he rejected the invitation. He always looks for a political angle in everything; this is not politics, it’s a matter of people’s faith.”
In a first in the state’s electoral history, the ruling BJP made a clean sweep by winning all 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state in May 2019, while the Congress and Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) had faced humiliating defeats.
Months later, Khattar was sworn in as the Chief Minister when the BJP formed the government, the state’s first non-Congress government at the helm for the second consecutive term.
This year both the parliamentary and assembly elections are likely to be slated in May and October.
Political observers believe both the parliamentary and assembly polls will be a straight fight between Khattar’s principles of ‘Ram Rajya’ to run state affairs and his arch-rival and senior Congress leader Bhupinder Hooda, who is working hard to return to power amid the party’s internal ‘war of supremacy’.
Responding to the Ram Temple Pran Pratishtha ceremony, Leader of Opposition Hooda told the media that Lord Ram is the symbol of everyone’s faith and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was the first to open the doors of the Ram Temple.
“Rajiv Gandhi, in coordination with Bir Bahadur Singh, got the locks of the temple opened after which the foundation stone was laid in Ayodhya on November 9, 1989. Lord Ram should not be associated with any party, he is worshipped and revered by everyone,” he said in an address to advocates in Rohtak.
In his war of words with the BJP-JJP government, he said that the alliance failed to deliver on public expectations and implement even their election manifestos.
Contrary to the confusion within the Congress over the boycott of the Ram temple event and the lack of a clear strategy, the entire saffron brigade is flaunting religious symbolism by building the Hindutva narrative and highlighting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in this historic moment.
“Ram Rajya,” will be the slogan for the forthcoming polls, a senior BJP leader said.
“In the last 10 years, good governance has been practiced, and the concept of Ram Rajya is now prevalent not only in the whole country but also in the states,” Chief Minister Khattar was quoted as saying a day ahead of the Pran Pratishtha ceremony.
He said those who obstruct the construction of the Ram Temple and disrespect him will face consequences.
After the temple inauguration, the Chief Minister expressed his emotional response by saying the Pran Pratishtha program moved him deeply.
At a program in Karnal, Khattar, a grounded organizational man known for his simple lifestyle, said, “We used to affirm our commitment to Lord Ram, vowing to build the temple there. As descendants of Lord Ram, we have fulfilled that promise, and today, on January 22, 2024, a new dawn has emerged.”
Describing the day as one of joy and happiness, he began the program by singing the lines of a Ram bhajan. Amid chants of Jai Shri Ram, the Chief Minister danced with a child to celebrate the moment.
Joining in, Karnal Member of Parliament Sanjay Bhatia, said, “With 500 years of struggle and sacrifices made by our elders, the dream they envisioned has finally been realized with the construction of the grand Ram Lala temple at the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi.”
Education Minister Kanwar Pal became emotional while watching the live broadcast of the Pran Pratishtha ceremony.
“The 21st century will be India’s best era, as envisioned by our elders. After the Pran Pratishtha ceremony of Lord Ram, a new era has begun,” he said.
However, no senior Congress leader from the state has visited the Ram temple since its consecration.
After the consecration, state Congress leader and MP Deepender Hooda visited the Hanuman Garhi Temple in Ayodhya along with the Uttar Pradesh party leadership.
“This is not my first visit to Ayodhya and the Ram Temple. I visited the temple one year ago too on the occasion of Makar Sankranti to seek blessings of Lord Ram,” he said, adding “Lord Ram belongs to everyone. The BJP should not politicize the Ram Temple consecration ceremony.”
In October 2019, the saffron party, which won 40 seats and was six short of a majority in the 90-member Assembly, formed the government in alliance with the then newly formed Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) led by Dushyant Chautala, who is Khattar’s deputy in the government.
A seasoned journalist with over two decades of experience, Vishal writes on a wide range of subjects which include biodiversity, climate change and links between environment & development. He also covers politics and other developments in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. He lives in Chandigarh & Shimla.