Allies spike BJP plan to rake up temple issue as India PM falters on promises

Manoj Chaurasia
Manoj Chaurasia - Special to Al Arabiya English
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The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has landed in fresh trouble ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls which are barely 100 days away.

The problem facing the saffron party is that allies are strongly opposing its move to project the contentious issues of Ram temple and Triple Talaq as the key poll issues in a bid to polarize the vast Hindu voters and make bumper electoral gains.

Of these two issues, the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya has been on the election agenda of the BJP for long while the Triple Talaq is the latest addition. The BJP wants to rake up at least the issue of Ram temple to end the prevailing “disenchantment” gripping the Hindu voters who had hoped the lingering temple issue would meet its logical end under PM Modi.

At the same time, it also faces pressures from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), its ideological fountainhead, and its affiliate the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) who have been constantly making statements and holding rallies over the very issue.

But two BJP allies have come in the way of its plan. The Janata Dal United (JD-U) headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) led by federal minister Ram Vilas Paswan have gone on constantly opposing the BJP move fearing this could leave their vote bank in danger. Both the allies have their support base in Bihar and their supporters comprise both the Hindus and the Muslims.

“Our party’s stand on the Ram temple, Uniform civil code, Article 370 and triple talaq is very much clear. They are on BJP’s agenda, not on NDA’s (National Democratic Alliance which the BJP heads) agenda and we can’t support the BJP over the issues,” JD-U general secretary KC Tyagi explained.

The JD-U has also announced not to support the BJP in the event of the triple talaq bill coming up for voting in the Rajya Sabha saying “We feel the way this bill is being rushed, it was avoidable and we feel more consultations should have taken place. The JD-U has six members in the Rajya Sabha, Upper House of the Parliament.

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The LJP too has reacted in similar way. “Development should be the main poll agenda of the NDA and any move to raise the contentious issues, such as Ram temple and triple talaq, in the elections could adversely affect the coalition’s poll prospects,” LJP’s parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan said.

His father and party chief Ram Vilas Paswan was more categorical over contentious issues, especially Ram temple and objected to BJP’s move to bring any ordinance over the issue. “Whatever the judgement the Supreme Court gives on the Ram temple issue should be accepted by everyone, be it Hindu, Muslim or any other community. Our stand has been consistent,” Paswan has been on record.

The reactions come shortly after the VHP pressed for bringing a legislation by the NDA government to quickly dispose of the lingering temple dispute case after the India’s top court on Friday adjourned hearing on the case while directing it to a new bench on January 10.

“The VHP continues to be of the firm opinion that a legislation by Parliament is an expeditious way of resolving the disputes and would urge the central government to bring in such legislation within its present term,” VHP’s working president Alok Kumar told the media on Friday.

Barely two back, he had asserted that the Hindus can’t wait “till eternity” for court’s decision on Ram temple. He also reminded the BJP about its “commitment” it had made to the votes in its election manifesto wherein the latter had reportedly promised to find a solution to this issue “within the ambit of the Constitution”.

The RSS too doesn’t appear to be amused over alleged “change in stand” by the Prime Minister and has reminded him about how the “BJP in its 2014 Election Manifesto prepared under the leadership of Narendra Modi had promised to explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya.”

“Reposing full faith in Modi, the people of India handed out huge mandate to the BJP in 2014, and hence the masses expect this government to fulfill his promise in the current tenure itself,” RSS’s joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabole said in his statement issued last week.

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He went on to add how the BJP in its Palampur resolution passed in 1989 had announced to build the temple at Ayodhya with “either mutual dialogue between the two communities or by enabling required legislation”. Now with little about 100 days are left for the tenure of current NDA government to expire, the BJP obviously has come under pressures with repeated such remarks coming from the RSS and its affiliates.

The desperation in this camp for the simple reason that it will be hard for them to convince the Hindus for their votes over temple issue if the current government which got absolute majority in the Lok Sabha goes out of power without fulfilling its commitment or at least its gives such an impression among its voters that it sincerely worked in this direction.

Prior to that the VHP had held a “Dharm Sansad” (religious convention) at Ayodhya in November to put pressure on the government and then questioned the construction of “Statue of Unity” in western Indian state of Gujarat, saying “If Sardar Patel’s statue can be erected on the banks of Narmada, why can’t an act be passed to build a giant Ram temple?”

They are enough to explain how the BJP feels under pressure right now to rake up the temple issue but feels simply helpless.

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