With Ayodhya-based seers, closely associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, slamming the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for attempting to communalise and draw political mileage from its “Chaurasi Kos Parikrama”, the VHP and its backers have nowhere to hide.
The seers had good reason to castigate the VHP’s new push for a temple at the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex. Besides the VHP’s inability to either build political consensus or wider social acceptability for the temple, the outfit attempted to hijack the parikrama that the Ayodhya seers organise every year.
The original parikrama had already been conducted and this probably angered Mahant Gyandas, Mahant Jugal Kishore Shastri, Mahant Satyendra Das and other leading Ayodhya-based seers.
With the Allahabad High Court delivering them a favourable judgment in 2010, the Ayodhya seers realise that they are closing in on a legal solution and any political theatrics over the complex could jeopardise the gains from the judgment.
The verdict effecting a three-way division of the disputed complex for the Sunni-Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the Ram-Lalla party is on appeal in the Supreme Court which has directed that status quo be maintained.
For the VHP, which has been bereft of a cogent emotive issue and was sliding into irrelevance within the Sangh Parivar, the 20-day yatra was its opening gambit in helping the BJP claw back in UP. But as the public reaction and the fears voiced by communally-sensitive towns and villages along the yatra route showed, the people had moved on.
For the Samajwadi Party, the yatra could not have come at a better time. Under fire for its poor governance record and the deteriorating law and order situation, evident from several outbreaks of communal clashes, the yatra has served as a welcome diversion.
By acting tough and arresting VHP men who intended to join the “Parikrama”, the Akhilesh Yadav government lapped up an opportunity to refurbish its secular credentials. But SP chief Mulayam Singh’s meeting with a VHP delegation on August 19 gave free rein to allegations of a “fixed match”.
Though this may not be true, the significance of the Muslim votebank and the chances of it moving back to the Congress in 2014, as in the 2009 general elections, must certainly be playing on Mulayam’s mind.
The BJP’s disruption of Parliament on Monday over the issue gives its game away. The party’s pointsman for UP, Amit Shah, recently voiced his desire to build a grand Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
For the BJP to meet Narendra Modi’s target of garnering 40 out of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats, the party has its task cut out; even at the risk of communal polarisation. The consolidation of Hindu votes behind the BJP and Muslim votes behind the SP can hurt the Congress and BSP.
But the BSP’s win in 2007, the Congress’ remarkable showing in 2009, and the SP’s spectacular comeback victory in 2012 was the voter’s way of telling politicians that only performance matters. So the BJP’s narrow agenda and the SP’s shortcomings might just be the impetus that the BSP and the Congress need.