The Bharatiya Janata Party's services have been enlisted by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for giving a fresh life to the Ram temple movement.
At the kumbh mela in Haridwar this January-February, a plan to re-ignite the interest in the Ram temple issue was drawn up by ‘sants' associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. That has now been finalised and announced, with the RSS stepping in to ensure all its affiliates, including the BJP, participate in large numbers.
The RSS-VHP decision has come when arguments are over in three of the four Ayodhya title suit cases before the three-judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court in Lucknow. In the fourth suit — all the four have been consolidated — arguments are expected to be completed by this month end. “We expect all the arguments to be completed by July-end and the judgment reserved,” said Zafaryab Jilani, advocate for the Sunni Wakf Board and some other Muslim parties to the suit.
“We want to keep up the pressure at a time when the court would be reserving its judgment,” said a member of the sangh parivar. The idea was to “familiarise” the generation born after the 1989 to 1992 Ayodhya agitation with the highpoints of that movement, said Prakash Sharma, VHP spokesperson. The plan was that sangh members would visit individual homes, especially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and remind people of “the commitment to build a Ram temple,” Mr. Sharma said.
Asked about the BJP's participation in the programme, Mr. Sharma's answer was: “Yes, the BJP is expected to participate” and “we will appeal to all political parties to do the same.”
Part of the plan is to organise reading of Hanuman chalisas in temples throughout the country, with a focus on 8,000 temples selected for this activity. “Hanuman chalisas will be read at those temples 11 times during the day and we want hundreds and thousands of people to attend them,” Mr. Sharma said. This revival of the temple agitation would be done from August 16 to November 15.
At a recent meeting between the sangh and BJP leaders in Bihar — Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar were present — the Hanuman Chalisa programme was discussed and orders given that the BJP ensure participation by its members. With Assembly elections due in October-November, the programme will coincide with the election campaign.
There are some in the BJP who feel this could be counter productive as it would make nonsense of the BJP's new development plank. One party leader said: “If the programme is taken up in a big way, it could lead to Muslim consolidation against the Janata Dal (United)-BJP combine; just what Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wanted to prevent by objecting to the publicity offensive by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi during the recent Patna conclave of the party.”
Uncertain of what campaign tricks the BJP may play, the Janata Dal (United) has made it clear it will not have a joint manifesto with the BJP. “We can later work out a common minimum programme of governance,” its president Sharad Yadav said.
The VHP spokesperson said several decisions were taken at the kumbh mela. A Ram temple must come up at the disputed site in Ayodhya, irrespective of the court verdict. The government must legislate to let this happen. Any attempt to allow the building of a mosque within the limits of Ayodhya, even outside the disputed site, must be thwarted.