– Oliver D’Souza
It was on August 5 last year that the government abrogated article 370 applicable to Jammu and Kashmir and it is on August 5 this year that the Ram Temple construction has begun, both a part of the communal elements of its election manifesto. While the political nuance and communal messaging of the dates which the BJP and the rest of the sangh parivar is celebrating is not lost on anyone, these are dates that both will regret before long.
The BJP and the larger sangh parivar would like to believe that all Hindus in India have celebrated the Ayodhya verdict and the beginning of the construction of Ram Temple. Sure, all Hindus would like to have a Ram temple but other than the venial ones poisoned with communal hate by right-wing forces, no right thinking Hindu wanted it to be built on the ruins of a demolished mosque the run-up to which and the fallout thereafter saw widespread murder in the name of religion and the subsequent descent of India into communal, social and political darkness that is now galloping. The Ram Temple movement and all that it encompassed along with the means was not about the aspirations of the people but that of vested interests. The Ram Temple Movement and the aspirations of a Ram Temple of the common Hindu are not the same. The former is a socio-religio-political bandwagon of vested interest abusing religion, the latter a spiritual pursuit and the two have nothing in common.
A good gauge of the people’s sentiment over the event is reflected by the reaction of political parties to it, whose principal voters are Hindus of various castes. Considering that the Ram temple is sacred to Hindus, no party would remain silent if the pulse of their Hindu electorate was one that favored the dynamics which made the temple possible, though the janambhoomi of Lord Ram and Lord Ram himself will continue to be sacred to the Hindu voters of these parties and they might even visit the temple. The fact that the second unnecessary shilanyas was done for projecting Modi is also not lost on such Hindus.
Other than the BJP, Congress, and AAP, no party has celebrated the event. This includes TMC, BJD, RJD, NCP, YSRCP, TRS, BSP, SP, CPI, CPM and even BJP’s allies like SAD, JDU, TRS. Seven of these parties are in power different states across India. On the other hand, the Congress, which never supported the temple movement and is in power in 5 states, only used it tactically to wean away BJP’s Hindu voters.
Even among BJP voters, all its voters have not voted entirely on the basis of its communal agenda as various CSDS surveys reveal. In 2014, some may have voted entirely because of it, others on temple and other religious issues plus the promised Achhe Din and yet others entirely only for the Achhe Din. Majority of polls before the 2019 elections showed the BJP losing heavily despite the communal elements in its manifesto and its communal actions in the preceding 5 years. Then came the dubious Balakote strikes and Modi was back in power riding on it even as allegations continue of widespread tampering of EVMs.
Political in its motives, the temple movement may have brought electoral fortunes to the BJP in 1998 and 1999 and remained a plank on which many Hindus partly voted for it right up to 2019, but that it had lost its sheen as a principal Hindu vote catcher was demonstrated when Vajpayee’s government was handed out a defeat in 2004 despite the temple and other communal agenda in the BJP’s manifesto, making way for 10 years of UPA. The Vajpayee government had failed in its economic promises, which is the same case with the Modi government, though astronomically greater.
But unlike the Vajpayee government, Modi’s rise to power in 2014 was neither solely due to the temple and religious fervor nor the UPA having lost its way in the second half of its second tenure. Rather it was a heady mix of temple, vain economic promises and a fake image of Modi as a strong, competent leader engineered by an alliance of the Brahmin led RSS and its parivar including the BJP, and the sections of the baniya business community, with OBCs, BCs and Dalits being co-opted with promises of economic prosperity aka ‘Achhe Din”. The bullied and bought over sections of the media promoted this alliance and the lies it perpetrated. The Gujarat model and IAC was a fraud played on the nation.
Remove the temple and the dubious abrogation of article 370 in erstwhile J&K state, and the only achievement of the BJP government in the last 6 years has been to devastate the country economically and socially, the price of which is now being paid by its voters along with others in various ways including economic welfare and social peace.
Politically, this means that with the continuing diminishing returns of the temple movement and the temple now actually on its way on August 5, the BJP now finds itself devoid of a potent plank for retaining the communal polarization of the electorate. That is why BJP and sangh parivar cadres are already raking up the Kashi and Mathura temple issues, though the effect, if any, will be local because the national sentiment over the birthplace of Ram and the issues around these two are not the same, while the incessant cacophony over religion used as a political narrative for close to 30 years has caused among the people the inevitable fatigue over combining religion with politics in the political discourse. In the streets very few people want to discuss religion and actually close the conversation if it is brought up. Throughout history religion as an electoral plank has delivered political spin-off only up to a certain point as the mixing of politics and religion eventually brings devastation of a nation.
At the hustings, the effects of a lack of a religious political plank sans performance on the economic and social front for the BJP was demonstrated even in recent years in the Maharashtra assembly elections 2019, where despite harping on temple and religious issues, it was evicted from power, as in the 7 other states that it lost elections since 2014.
What largely brought Modi to power in 2014 was the young India across caste and class, partly on the basis of temple and religious issues and mostly on economic promises packaged as Achhe Din using the lie called Gujarat Model and Modi’s then purported image as a strong and competent leader.
The youth are increasingly finding all three to be political deceit. The hyped Gujarat model state had and continues to have some of the worst social and economic indicators in the country while it recorded jobless growth in a few sectors in which only the baniyas benefited in a pro quid pro arrangement with the BJP during Modi’s rule, with the baniyas gaining far more than the BJP. What happened in Gujarat economically, socially and religiously under Modi is what is now happening nationally.
There is not much left in Modi’s strong-man persona perpetrated through a media blitz and shenanigans such as targeting the minorities, the dubious Balakote strike, menaingless talk about nationalism and a spate of fruitless foreign visits for voters to suck up to. The Chinese have decimated it in one deft blow. They entered deep into Indian territory and are firmly entrenched, with over 200,000 soldiers and enormous weapons of war amassed at our borders. The Chinese have not retreated an inch; instead India has retreated from territory it earlier held. The government may have tried its best to fool the people about the occupation, but other than an abysmally small population that has chosen to draw blinkers over its own eyes, no one is buying the lies. Enough has been telecast and written replete with satellite imagery about continuing Chinese occupation of Indian territory.
Again here, it was the dubious abrogation of article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and making Ladakh an Union territory on August 5 last year that triggered occupation of Indian territory by an expansionist China. The occupation is seen by most foreign affairs experts as an opportune reaction to the statement in parliament by Amit Shah that India would take back Aksai Chin, which has been occupied by China. Aksai Chin as per our claims may be part of India, but when a internally militant, incompetent and unpredictable government speaks militaristic language on bi-lateral issues, we cannot expect the other party to be a mute spectator. It is to avoid such situations that diplomacy as an arm of governance exists and needs to be practiced by the leadership in relation to other nations. After all China is not a minority population living in India that can be bullied, threatened, abused by a majoritarian government. It is a super power that makes even the biggest super-power -US – deal with it with caution.
At the same time, abrogation of article 370, for which the given the reason was that it would foster growth of the state and curtail terrorism has turned out to be a dud. Being in a lock-down for over one year with its own consequences, it destroyed whatever economy was left through tourism and Kashmiri pandits are now a divided house over abrogation of article 370 and complete statehood. It has made very little difference to cross-border terrorism as well.
August 5 will be the nemesis for the BJP and the sangh parivar for another reason. The BJP chose August 5 for starting construction of the temple to make politcal mileage as well as to make it a show of majoritarian triumphalism. It was on the same date that article 370 was abrogated in Muslim dominated Kashmir. But in the process it also pushed the simmering conflict between the legitimate sanatani Brahmin religious heads of the Hindu faith and the rabidly Manuwad Brahmin run, self-appointed guardian of Hinduism and Indian culture, the sangh parivar, which has no religious roots but roots emanating from Hitler’s and Mussolini’s fascism and from the exploitative Manumsriti, to an altogether highly elevated level. It opened a potent way for the legitimate leaders of the Hindu religion whose ability to shape Hindu political opinion through their structures cannot be understated, to launch an assault on the entire sangh parivar including the BJP, marking the beginning of a public conflict between the two.
This was revealed in the press conference ( video above) called by Swami Avimukteshwaranand, second-in-command of Swami Swaroopanand, the Shankaracharya of Dwarka and Badrinath Dham (west and north) preceding the start of construction of the temple. According to the Swami, the date has been chosen as per the Gregorian calendar and not the Hindu calendar which is used for arriving at an auspicious time.
In addition, they said that there was no need for a second shilanayas presided over by a political entity as one was already done by Swami Swaroopanand, that the bhoomi puja date was a unrighteous political stunt, that it would bring destruction on all those involved in politicizing the temple and on the nation itself.
Even the Hindu Mahasabha which put all its weight behind the temple movement has started working against the BJP, going as far as calling PM Modi and the RSS as deceivers and frauds selling a comb to a bald man. On February 25, 2020, it launched a national door-to-door campaign from Ujjain to inform Hindus nationwide about the nefarious designs of the sangh parivar and the BJP.
But the date issue, qualified as it may be, is not the only reason the legitimate priests are furious even though, ironically, it was them who encouraged the temple movement. Their ire comes from the fact that over the last two decades the sangh parivar has illegitimately and significantly replaced them in matters concerning Hindu religion. In literally every matter concerning the faith, they have been taking centre-stage and are setting the narrative. This is what also happened during the bhoomi puja. There was no Dharmaguru or Sankaracharya to conduct the event which is how most Hindus would have expected it with such an important temple. Instead, it was conducted by a RSS aligned priest with RSS’s Brahmin Chief Mohan Bhagwat who has nothing to do with the religious structures of Hinduism being seated where a Dharamguru or Sankaracharya should have. This is a direct assault on the legitimate religious institutions, structure and authority of the legitimate priesthood, who have held sway over religious matters and over the millions of temples for many, many millennia in the sub-continent. The priesthood is not going to idly sit and watch their sway in religious matters decimated and in such a tussle, the sangh parivar is no match for them.
All of this is bound to hit the BJP’s election winning vote base – the middle-class and the migrant-labor type of voter, mostly OBC and BC and Dalit, while the party will, of course, continue to retain its vote base of Hindu hard-liners, but this segment is not enough for it to win even an assembly seat.
For the middle-class voter young and old — educated or literate upper, middle and lower class consisting of the upper castes and the OBCs and BCs – economic growth and social welfare is a very important part of the equation along with religion and when economic circumstances change, this segment is known to think more in terms of economic benefit than religious or caste nirvana, especially considering that communal promises made and fulfilled do not put food on the table or money in the bank. This segment of voters which lives on fixed incomes and budgets suffers the most in times of economic downturns because their lives get enormously disrupted, unlike the rich who are not affected by it and the poor who have very little to lose in the first place. The continual decline of the economy means these segments are looking at very bleak prospects in the foreseeable future as well. With the Dharam Gurus coming out openly against the BJP and calling out the misuse of religion by the BJP, which has failed literally on all matters of governance that affect the lives of the ordinary citizen, these voters will be motivated to ask themselves why they voted for a party that has ruined there economic welfare.
The migrant labor type of voter, especially that from the Hindi heartland, which is mostly youth taken up by BJP’s promises of economic prosperity, on the other hand, has received a particularly brutal boot from the government during the poorly managed and executed total lock-down of the nation. Already, the sustained economic downturn and BJP’s failure to deliver on its economic and social justice promises had made jobs hard to come by for these sections, now finding themselves penniless and jobless while the government has nothing to offer to them except, in a desperate attempt to assuage them, present repackaged budgetary allocations as relief which is not reaching most of them anyway. The Dalits received an additional brutal boot through caste atrocities and policy changes that affect them.
Added to all of this, there are pending matters that are likely to hit the BJP and the sangh parivar as a whole even harder, especially now that the Supreme Court is increasingly coming under public criticism not only in India but also globally and logically it would like to salvage itself. Many of the judges have already openly spoken against the government’s anti-constitutional activities. Besides others, the pending legal matters include the abrogation of article 370 and the CAA-NRC legislation. Every legal mind worth its salt opines that both will not stand the scrutiny of constitutional benches of the SC.
The BJP and the sangh parivar may be celebrating the date August 5, but this very date, along with all of their other misdoings has also set in motion a socio-religio-political process that has begun the dismantling of the political and social domination of the BJP and its parivar. These are dates the BJP will regret before long.