Unsure of the political fallout of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case verdict, expected on September 24, the Bharatiya Janata Party is unusually quiet and has officially refused to say anything except that it will await the judgment.
“We have been asked by adhyakshji [party president Nitin Gadkari] not to say anything on this subject,” a senior leader confirmed here on Thursday, even as he let it be known that since the BJP was “fully committed” to the building of a “grand Ram temple” at the disputed site at Ayodhya, “it was but natural party cadre would join the full mobilisation plan” being made by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliate, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
At the same time, the BJP leadership is unsure what effect the verdict will have on the party's declining political fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, which in the early 1990s returned more than 50 of its MPs to the Lok Sabha. While clearly some in the party hope that the issue will once again give the party an edge in the most populous State, there are other leaders from the State who are of the view the BJP has been “too discredited” on this matter to be able to get any electoral mileage from it.
The sangh parivar plan is that calls for building a Ram temple, following the verdict, should come from “non-political forums” like religious associations of `sants' supported by the VHP, but in mobilisation of crowds, the BJP cadre should play an effective and major role. “We may not be much of a force in U.P. now, but we can still get a sizeable crowd together, and that will happen on September 24,” a leader said, while insisting that cadre and leaders [with a few exceptions] “will all be free to join any Ram temple-related activity in their individual capacities”.
Recently the BJP cancelled a national executive committee meeting, scheduled for later this month in Jammu, in view of the expected verdict. All senior leaders have been told to make themselves available in Delhi for urgent consultations around the date of the judgment.
The party will discuss the verdict in detail once it is available. But for now, its leaders have been told not to say anything on this subject from official BJP platforms.
Loss of credibility
Yet another decision is that “some leaders” who “lost all credibility” as a result of inaction on the Ayodhya issue when in government at the Centre from 1998 to 2004 should “stay away” from activities related to the verdict. The VHP has apparently told the RSS bosses that “politicisation” of Ayodhya by the BJP for direct electoral gain resulted in a loss of credibility for the entire “movement”.
Now the VHP wants to keep out those who have used the Ayodhya issue to the hilt to emerge as major political leaders. Its leader Ashok Singhal has publicly said L.K. Advani should “atone” for the sin of politicising Ayodhya and for putting the issue on the back burner when in power.
Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley may also be kept at arm's length from the new “movement” planned by the sangh parivar for two reasons: they were not associated with it in the past and also because they hold constitutional positions and should not be seen to be challenging a court judgment or calling for its immediate implementation, depending on which way the verdict goes.