SC’s Thursday ruling clears decks for final hearing in Ayodhya land dispute case to begin. And, a ruling before 2019 polls could boost BJP’s chances
New Delhi: A day after a favourable Aadhaar verdict, more good news came in for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday as the Supreme Court cleared the path for the final hearing of the Ayodhya land title dispute.
With this decision, the BJP is “upbeat and optimistic there would be no delay in the main Ayodhya case”, party sources said.
Hearings will now resume from 29 October and a final ruling could well come before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which could buttress the BJP’s electoral chances.
The court declined to refer to a five-judge Constitution bench the issue of reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgment which had said a mosque was not integral to the practice of Islam.
Given this bears an impact on the contentious Ayodhya land title dispute case, even if tangentially, the refusal to refer to a larger bench prevents a delay in a ruling in the sensitive case.
Effectively, had the matter been referred to a larger bench, it would have meant the Ayodhya judgment would have in all certainty come after the 2019 polls, but now, there is a distinct possibility of a judgement before that.
Upbeat saffron camp…
The court’s decision has boosted the morale of the saffron camp.
While the BJP has officially refrained from claiming victory, its ideological parent RSS was quick to welcome the decision.
“Today, the Supreme Court has decided to hold hearing on the Shri Rama Janmabhumi case from 29th October by a three-member bench. We welcome this decision and are confident that a just verdict will be reached over the case at the earliest,” the RSS said in a statement.
The Vishwa Hindu Parisha (VHP), too, chimed in.
“The way is now clear for the hearing of Ram Janbhoomi appeal,” said Alok Kumar, international working president of the VHP, adding that “impediment has been defeated”.
…But silent BJP
Except two saffron-clad leaders – Union Minister Uma Bharti who was part of the Ram Janmbhoomi movement and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath – no senior BJP leader has commented on the verdict.
“This matter is not a matter of religious dispute as Ayodhya has been an import at religious place for Hindus just like Mecca is for Muslims. This was converted in to a land dispute case,” said Bharti.
“It is for the country’s benefit that the issue gets resolved soon. We appeal the matter is resolved as early as possible,” Adityanath reacted.
For BJP, it is a calibrated move to not jump in the debate and claim victory just yet.
Sources in the party said leaders have apparently been told by the top brass to refrain from commenting on the Supreme Court verdict and allow the RSS and VHP to take the lead on the issue.
They added that the BJP “need not react with great vigour officially since this isn’t the main verdict, but it does believe it greatly benefits the BJP, and will have a positive bearing on its politics”.
A senior party leader said on condition of anonymity that if the Ram temple issue gets resolved in favour of Hindus by the apex court, “no one can blame BJP for forcing it on Muslims”.
The party also believes whether or not the final ruling comes before 2019, Thursday’s verdict helps the BJP in the “optics and perception” battle and fits right into the narrative of its Hindutva politics.
BJP’s Ram Mandir politics
In a way, the BJP’s political and electoral fortunes owe their national rise to the early 1990s, when it began its campaign for constructing a temple on a disputed site in Ayodhya. The razing of the Babri Masjid and the BJP’s demand for a Ram Temple there created a strong foundation for the BJP’s brand of majoritarian, Hindutva politics.
In all crucial elections since then, BJP leaders have not shied away from mentioning this socially and politically delicate issue, attempting to play it to their advantage. With the evergreen promise of constructing a Ram temple, the BJP has attempted to keep its core vote bank intact.
According to the sources, the BJP felt any verdict in the main Ayodhya case can work to its advantage. In the worst-case scenarios, even an unfavourable one, they said, “can be used to whip-up passions”.
The issue is particularly critical in Uttar Pradesh, which has as many as 80 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. Of these, the BJP had won 71 on its own in 2014. However, given five years of anti-incumbency at the Centre and two years in the state as well as its disastrous performance in the bypolls in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana, the party has been concerned about losing its grip in the state to some extent.
Given it was UP which helped the BJP past the magic figure in 2014, the party felt a verdict in the Ayodhya land title dispute case could greatly enhance its chances.
Also read: The middle ground on Aadhaar still eludes us
Of course, the party is well aware the issue has resonance much beyond UP and will also help assuage the rising upper caste ire against it. Upper castes, the BJP’s traditional supporters, have been unhappy with what they view as its efforts to pander to backward castes, including Dalits.
What Congress says
The Congress, meanwhile, has once again claimed the BJP has been trying to “mislead and fool” people on the issue.
“The Congress has always maintained that whatever is the Supreme Court’s decision on the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid case should be accepted by all and implemented by the government. But unfortunately, for 30 years the BJP has plotted misleading and fooling the people on the Ram Mandir issue…Six months before every election, the BJP remembers Lord Ram as an attempt to garner votes,” convenor of AICC Communication cell and national spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said.
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