The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)’s promise of building the Ram temple in Ayodhya in its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections is nothing new, and they have been promising it since 1996, say analysts.
The party released its manifesto on Monday, with major thrust on national security, Ram Mandir, Citizenship Amendment Bill and holding simultaneous elections among other key promises.
On construction of the Ram Mandir, the manifesto says, “The party will evaluate all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution and all necessary efforts to facilitate the expeditious construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.”
Describing the temple promise as mere poll gimmick, Zafaryab Jilani, Convenor, All India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMA), says BJP has been making empty promises on the issue since 1996. “There’s nothing new in their stand. Instead, they should have come out directly and said that the matter is before the Supreme Court and they will try to decide the matter at the earliest. And whatever the order is, they will follow it,” he said.
Lambasting BJP’s stand, Jilani says since the matter is in court’s purview, they cannot afford to go against it. “They cannot say anything new because they are bound by the Constituton of India,” he added.
In December last year, Shiv Sena and a section of Sangh leaders had upped the ante on Ram Mandir, and the government was under immense pressure to fulfill its commitment. Accusing the government of going back on its promise, a section of the Sangh Parivar had also demanded that the government must pass an ordinance to expedite construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
However, the agitations died down after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made clear that his government would wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue.
“Building Ram Mandir has been BJP’s core agenda for a long time. Sometimes, they put it on the backburner. And they hid it when they have other parties as alliance partners. Since 1996, this is an experiment they have been trying and they didn’t do anything about it,” says political analyst Neerja Chowdhury. However, she says the party is not ruling out the option of bringing in an ordinance by saying in the manifesto that 'we will explore every possibility'.
The Supreme Court ordered mediation in the Ayodhya case on March 8. A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked a three-member panel to consult all stakeholders to reach an amicable solution to the 60-year-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute. The panel, including former Supreme Court judge, Justice FM Kalifulla, senior advocate Sriram Panchu, and spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, has been entrusted to conduct the mediation.
According to political analyst and director of CSDS, Sanjay Kumar, Ram temple will continue to be a big poll promise of BJP and by doing that, the party stuck to its core ideology.
“They can’t have a manifesto without a mention of Ram mandir and Article 370. This is a poll promise they have been making for so many years and they can’t go back on it. People don’t distinguish between whether the issue is with the court or mediation or anything. The promise is meant to make people happy. Their promise is intended to consolidate its core group,” he says.
The 13-member manifesto committee, headed by Union minister Rajnath Singh, also has a slew of welfare schemes to counter Congress manifesto, which was released a week ago.
Responding to the BJP manifesto, AICC spokesperson Shama Mohammad said that BJP uses Lord Ram only for elections. “The BJP brings up the Ram Mandir only during election time. They brought it up in every election. For them, it’s to win the election. They use Lord Ram for elections,” said Shama.