Inauguration of Ayodhya Ram Mandir augurs well for India in the long run
It puts an end to a religious issue that dictated the turn of Indian politics for over four decades
When I went to Ayodhya during the 2019 General Elections, I happened to meet Lallu Singh, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Member of Parliament (MP) from Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh. Incidentally, Ayodhya and Ayodhya Assembly constituency fall under Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency.
A five-term MLA from Ayodhya (1991 to 2012), Lallu Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 2014. The electioneering for the 2019 General Elections was at its peak when I met him.
Though he was busy with his campaign and meetings with his cadre, he patiently answered whatever questions I posed. His accessibility obviously is the main reason for his success in politics. I asked him whether Ram Mandir would ever be built in Ayodhya. He confidently told me that the Supreme Court’s verdict would be in favour of Lord Ram and a world-class temple would be built for the Lord in Ayodhya post the verdict.
A couple of weeks after I met him, he successfully retained the seat. In that election, BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi secured a bigger mandate for the second consecutive term. Soon thereafter, Lallu Singh’s prediction came true on the Sri Ram temple issue.
The Supreme Court delivered a historic judgment in the temple’s favour on November 9, 2019. In an instant reaction, the Modi government swung into action and constituted an exclusive Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust which, in turn, appointed a committee under the leadership of retired IAS officer Nripendra Mishra to oversee the temple’s construction. This Uttar Pradesh cadre officer earlier worked as the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. That way, Modi entrusted the responsibility of constructing the temple to his trusted man as he wanted to closely monitor the construction process. Subsequently, Modi laid the foundation for the much-awaited temple on August 5, 2020. Interestingly, it was his maiden visit to Ayodhya! The Prime Minister is now inaugurating the temple today (January 22, 2024).
However, there are objections to Modi doing Pran Pratishtha (consecration) of Lord Ram Lalla in Ayodhya. Four Shankaracharyas objected to the consecration ceremony, saying proper rituals are not being followed. Opposition parties also boycotted the event, alleging that the Modi government had politicised it by holding the ceremony in an incomplete structure just ahead of the General Elections apparently aimed at deriving political mileage.
But expecting BJP and Modi not to use the Ram Mandir issue for political gains is naivety. The Ram Mandir and Ram Janmabhoomi issues have been dominating India’s political space for the past four decades. It goes without saying that BJP owes its phenomenal rise from two MP seats in 1984 to over 300 MPs now to the Ram Mandir issue.
Modi consolidated BJP’s gains from the Ram Mandir issue by focusing on welfare and development after 2014. The party turned Hindutva and development as the potent weapons to outwit its political rivals. Further, BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates were in the forefront of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. They obviously wanted to showcase their achievement to the world through the consecration event.
It is not that the Congress has not played any role in this issue. In fact, they provided the springboard, so to say. It was the Congress government, under the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, which granted permission to Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a part of Sangh Parivar, to lay the foundation stone (shilanyas) for a Ram Mandir near Babri Masjid just before the November 1989 General Elections. Rajiv Gandhi even started his election campaign from Ayodhya, promising Ram Rajya if elected again. Of course, he lost that election. Thereafter, the Congress virtually gifted the Ram Mandir patent to BJP, without realising the consequences.
Frankly speaking, Congress, which is the main opposition in the Lok Sabha now, is committing a historic blunder by not attending the consecration ceremony in Ayodhya.
I think that this decision will turn out to be the grand old party’s most bizarre self-goal, yet. It will cost the party dearly in the upcoming General Elections. Congress has Mapanna Mallikarjun Kharge, a Dalit from Karnataka, as its president now. It’s a known fact that in the past, Dalits were denied entry into temples for centuries. Congress could have sent him as its representative to the consecration ceremony. That would have been the right strategy for the party and also for the I.N.D.I.A block. With its decision to skip the ceremony, the party is certain to antagonise even secular Hindus. Does the grand old party have any alternative strategy to counter BJP on this? We will know it only after this year’s election.
But the fact of the matter is that the majority of Hindus, majority of Muslims and a majority of people from other religions are by nature secular in India. They worship their own religion while respecting other religions. This is what is keeping India intact. That’s the true meaning of secularism as well.
Interestingly, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) put out an interesting study recently. According to it, the consecration ceremony has been estimated to generate a business of Rs. one lakh crore across India. The trade body put out this staggering estimate after getting feedback from trade associations in 30 major cities. It said over 30,000 programmes were planned in the run up to the Ayodhya event. Besides, there is an economic boom in Ayodhya, which is most likely to emerge as the key religious destination for Hindus in the coming years. That’s a good sign indeed.
Nevertheless, the inauguration of the Ram Mandir does put an end to a religious issue that formed a key part of India’s political discourse for a long time. It augurs well for India in the long run.
With the key religious issue behind us, the future governments at the Centre should focus on the overall economic development of our country. Only then can India emerge as a global economic and political powerhouse, which is the need of the hour even for the world.