BJP hopes to reap political dividends from Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha's proposed 'private member's Bill' on Ram Temple

Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha’s announcement on Twitter that he intends to introduce a “private member's bill” in Parliament on Ram temple is an unlikely decision that was taken in isolation given the timing of the tweet and his profile.

 BJP hopes to reap political dividends from Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinhas proposed private members Bill on Ram Temple

Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha. Image courtesy @RakeshSinha01

In the Monsoon Session of Parliament, Sinha was “nominated” by the Narendra Modi government to the Upper House. The Delhi University associate professor, founder of India Policy Foundation and biographer of RSS founder KB Hedgewar has for long been seen as a public face of the Sangh on various television channels. After being nominated under Article 80 of the Constitution, Sinha joined BJP and official website of Upper House refers to him as a BJP member.

His announcement came just a day after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh joint general secretary Manmohan Vaidya on beginning of the Sangh’s 350-member strong conclave of Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal (ABKM) said that the Centre should enact a law and construct the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the way Sardar Patel had done for the construction of Somnath temple. The RSS Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh Arun Kumar spoke about the need for a government made Ram temple on Wednesday. The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had talked at length about it at his Vijayadashmi speech in Nagpur. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is demanding the same.

As a BJP member, Sinha couldn’t have made this move without due deliberation and consent from the party leadership. The Rajya Sabha member also sought the response from Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Yadav and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu. However, BSP chief Mayawati did not figure in the list. 

Sources said the Ram temple issue was informally deliberated at length among the senior leaders in the government and in the BJP’s organisational structure. The parleys attempted to chart out a way so that sincerity on the Ram Mandir issue could be maintained in the public eye and also not to earn judicial ire in the process. The consultation also focussed on how to prevent the Opposition from exploiting the Ram Mandir issue just ahead of the string of Assembly polls in key states and the General Election in the first half of next year. There is a fear that the BJP might walk into an ambush if it engages itself in a hot pursuit of the Ram Mandir issue allowing the Opposition an opportunity to accuse it of keeping its development plank in the backburner.

Since the matter is pending before the Supreme Court and the hearing is adjourned till January and also the constitution of a new bench to hear the title suit, the government coming out with either an ordinance or a bill on Ram temple may not augur well for the Narendra Modi government. There is a possibility that the apex court may take an adverse view of any such move. Pro-Mandir groups had been critical of the Supreme Court’s decision to postpone hearing in the case to next year. Moreover, even if the BJP has a majority in the Lok Sabha it does not have the required numbers in Rajya Sabha. Some of the current allies of the BJP may have taken a different position and given an impression that there is a deep division in the ranks of the ruling NDA on the issue. This is a perception which the BJP would prefer to abstain from just ahead of the parliamentary election.

The decision to field someone from its own rank for moving a private member's bill will give an impression to its core social constituents and also to the sympathisers that it is sincere about the construction of Ram temple. It would keep the pot boiling and let the public debate on the subject. But at the same time for any adverse fall out on the issue either in the court or inside Parliament or anywhere else, the move would ring-fence the government. Even as it stands behind Sinha’s move the government has positioned itself in such a way that it could always borrow Manmohan Singh’s words if the need be and say it was keeping at “arm’s length”. This could be a smart political tactic by the BJP leadership.

The Winter Session of Parliament is still over a month and a half away. The question is why Sinha didn’t introduce it quietly if he was sincere and wanted to take the Opposition by surprise and let the bill to be taken for consideration? Why did he announce it now and give enough time to the Congress and others to make a counter strategy? It’s anybody guess how early announcement of the private member's bill idea benefits the BJP.

But there are technicalities involved in moving a private member's bill.

Since the time allotted for moving a private member's bill is very limited a lottery is held to decide which member’s bill would be taken up. Once it is through the lottery and date allotted, the Chair seeks the House's permission to allow that bill to be introduced. Members in the House respond in “Ayes” and “Noes” and there could be a voting also if it is not clear in the voice vote. If Ayes wins then the discussion on the bill begins.

In the next Winter Session, there could be one or two occasions when a private member's bill is taken up. Sinha and the BJP will have to first wish his notice gets past lottery. The catch lay not in the voting for passage of the bill but at the introduction stage itself — that it will make it clear who stands where — whether the Congress with Rahul Gandhi’s newfound identities of “Janeudhari Brahmin”, “ananya Shib Bhakt”.. and “better Hindu” is for Ram Mandir or not. The same yardstick would apply for parties like RJD, NCP, SP, TMC and others who are currently siding with the Congress.

This would give the BJP a launchpad to go to the people and tell how Congress and its allies were opposed to the construction of the Ram temple at his birthplace. The Congress and its prospective allies, however, have an easy tool to thwart the ruling BJP on the Mandir law gameplan just by disrupting the House on some pretext the day it is listed for business.

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Updated Date: Nov 01, 2018 18:08:25 IST