What has Hanuman Chalisa got to with Ram Mandir in Ayodhya? Hanuman, as we know from the epic Ramayana, was a devoted follower of Lord Ram, but that’s not the link at play here. It would be churlish to suggest that Arvind Kejriwal’s citing of the hymn prompted Narendra Modi to announce the formation of Ram temple trust in Parliament on Thursday, but it definitely was BJP “owning” the Hindutva brand after many mini competitors have emerged since Hindu consolidation became an electoral reality.
This was BJP telling Aam Aadmi Party and Congress that no matter how devoutly Kejriwal chants ‘chalisa’ or Rahul Gandhi visits temples, the saffron unit will always retain control over and be the champion of an ideological construct that has now found wider acceptance. Modi’s decision to announce the formation of 15-member Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra to oversee construction of the temple from the precincts of Parliament was a well-thought-out strategy to kill many birds in one stone.
One, it presents the prime minister as the crusader for the Hindu cause who finally managed to achieve success on the one issue that has defined the Hindutva movement and catapulted BJP’s rise in electoral politics. Prime Minister Modi is seen as the embodiment of that potent socio-cultural force that made possible the upcoming construction of a grand temple on the very site which Hindus believe was Lord Ram’s birthplace.
However, BJP was at pains to drive home this point. While all the steps regarding the construction of a temple at Ayodhya were being handled by the Ministry of Home Affairs under Amit Shah, it was Modi who made the statement on the floor of Lok Sabha and stressed that he was “fortunate” to make such an announcement. His ministerial colleagues kept hammering at it.
Union minister Giriraj Singh, who was pumping fists in air when Modi made that announcement earlier in the day, later told journalists: “Today in Parliament, when Prime Minister Modi announced the scheme for the development of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, I thought as if Lord Rama has made him the Prime Minister for this day.”
The move was a deliberate attempt to set the Modi brand apart from his competitors and portray him as the mythical figure who carries hopes of billions of Hindus on his shoulder. What chance does Kejriwal, Gandhi or Uddhav Thackeray have before him?
The second reason why the announcement was made at the top of Question Hour in Lok Sabha four days before the three-month deadline fixed by the Supreme Court to set up the trust and just three days before the Delhi elections is more utilitarian. It precludes charges of poll code violation and seeks to seize the Hindutva narrative that may yet become a factor in Delhi polls. The controversy around Shaheen Bagh has given rise to a possibility that it may trigger a counter-consolidation based on Hindu solidarity.
But while Modi’s speech on Ram Temple was relevant to the impending polls, it goes above and beyond the proximate cause. He stressed on the magnificence and grandeur of the imagined construction and clarified that the entire 67.703-acre acquired land will be transferred to the trust.
Today we take a historic step ahead towards building a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya!
It was my honour to address the Lok Sabha on this subject, which is special to many.
I also applauded the remarkable spirit of the people of India.
This is what I said... pic.twitter.com/MJHDHnR3Xo
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 5, 2020
Donning a saffron muffler over a grey jacket, the prime minister urged the Opposition benches to support the construction of the temple at Ayodhya even as BJP MPs, who were apparently instructed to be present in the House, took to collective chants of Jai Shri Ram. This was followed by BJP leaders upping the ante later before the media.
BJP MP Ravi Kishan said Hindus are celebrating all around the world and the “formation of the trust is a tight slap on tukde tukde gang’s face.”
While talking to CNN-News18, Kishan added, “Congress used to say, Mandir wahin banayenge, taarikh nhi batayenge… beta sun lo, taarikh ban gaya (Congress used to say temple will be built on the site but never gave a date for it, but now we have a date). His party colleague Giriraj Singh said, “Congress kept stalling this issue for so long but now, finally, we have a date”.
These calibrated attempts were an effort to put the record straight and reinforce the narrative that it was always the BJP who was at the forefront of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.
At the same time, Modi’s repeated invoking of the Supreme Court during his speech and underlining in almost every stance that all government’s moves are in accord with the apex court’s judgment on Ram Mandir and Babri Masjid issue were an effort to point out that the construction of the temple on the very site where the mosque was destroyed is being done within the constitutional framework and under legal and judicial fiat.
The subtext underlines the fact that while a civilisational demand of the majority community is being met, the minorities need not feel aggrieved or threatened by it. Modi stressed on the harmony and mature response from Indian polity on the issue in his speech, once again highlighting that he remains a master communicator. Perhaps nonpareil.
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Updated Date: Feb 06, 2020 19:45:20 IST