CSDS-Lokniti 2024 pre-poll survey | ‘Construction of the Ram Mandir will help the BJP consolidate Hindu identity’

If the Ram Mandir issue is brought into focus during the campaign, the BJP may make further gains, but even if it is not, the BJP has already established itself as a party that stands for Hindu pride

Updated - April 12, 2024 10:38 am IST

Published - April 12, 2024 05:38 am IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the consecration of the Ram Mandir, in Ayodhya.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the consecration of the Ram Mandir, in Ayodhya. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is probably the most evocative issue that has shaped politics for over three decades now. If in the 1990s, the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation mobilised Hindu public opinion across the country, mainly in the north and the west, and propelled the BJP to the centre stage of politics, the construction of the temple and its consecration in January this year have helped the party silently consolidate Hindu identity. Whether this issue will be brought into focus during the campaign is not important. If it is, the BJP may make further gains, but even if it is not, the BJP has already established itself as a party that stands for Hindu pride.

Also Read:Lokniti CSDS pre-poll survey for 2024 Lok Sabha elections

Reference points

We conducted this pre-poll survey more than two months after the consecration of the temple. Yet, the consecration of the temple was etched in the minds of the respondents as a major event. While the consecration was widely welcomed, doubts were expressed over its effect on the non-Hindu minorities and also over the nearly full-fledged state sponsorship of the event at Ayodhya. As the election campaign unfolds, the temple has already become a subterranean issue that voters will carry to the polling station. And undeniably, the issue is likely to work in the BJP’s favour.

In the survey, when asked to name the ‘most liked action’ of this government, over 22% of the respondents mentioned the construction of the Ram Mandir. Nearly half the respondents said that the construction of the temple will help in consolidating Hindu identity (Table 1). This assessment was upheld more by Hindus than non-Hindus (Table 2).

This assessment was prevalent more among men than women (49% men as opposed to 46% women believed that it will consolidate Hindu identity). The rich and the Hindu upper castes, followed by the middle classes and Hindu Other Backward Classes were more likely to believe that the Ram Mandir will consolidate Hindu identity (Table 3). This assessment was upheld more by rural respondents (50%) compared to urban respondents and the youth (52%). Also, the view that the temple will consolidate Hindu identity was held by more respondents in the country’s north and west compared to the east and the south (Table 4).

Religious divide

It is quite clear that the temple issue also has the potential to lead to a religious divide. Overall, over one in every four respondents agreed with the view that this will be the case. This view was more prominent among non-Hindus than among Hindus. However, two points need to be noted here: one, even among Hindus, more than two among every five believed that the temple issue would increase differences among the two communities; and two, nearly one-fifth of the respondents did not have any opinion on this matter (Table 5).

If the BJP builds on these sentiments among the Hindus, it could garner greater support both in the regions where such sentiment is strong and where the party intends to make fresh inroads. In the coming days, it will be interesting to watch how the BJP uses this pre-existing social atmosphere to its advantage and also whether the Opposition has any politically viable response to that.

Suhas Palshikar taught political science and is chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics

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