RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat | PTI
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RSS chief has signalled the issue that will help consolidate the Hindu votes for the BJP in 2019.

RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s annual Dussehra address to the faithfuls officially launched the BJP’s campaign for the 2019 elections, and the main takeaways were Ayodhya and Ram Mandir.

The remarks weren’t made by the head of a social organisation pitching for a better India. It was, undoubtedly, the RSS chief seeking votes for the BJP. But more importantly, he signalled the issue that will help consolidate the Hindu votes, once again, ahead of the elections.

The regular tropes of any BJP campaign also feature Pakistan, Kashmir, anti-nationals, and, of course, how the Congress party is allegedly dividing the country through minority appeasement. But these issues will appear in strong supporting roles – like Sanjeev Kumar in Sholay. The lead role in this movie has been reserved for Ram Lalla.

Also read: BJP allies react with unease as RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat calls for law to build Ram temple

Why Ram Mandir?

It is a tried and tested formula, which the RSS and the BJP know will make some, if not all, Hindu voters forget the multiple failures of the Narendra Modi government. This issue will produce the results that lakhs of pictures and WhatsApp videos of brand Modi – aimed at making him look benevolent and visionary – won’t be able to.

Be ready to hear more battle cries for “Mandir wahin banayenge” (temple will be constructed at Ayodhya only) in your WhatsApp messages over the next six months. The messages will be slickly orchestrated with, I suspect, even 3D building plans of the grand temple and fervent pleas to the Hindus to be ready for kar seva.

These are trying times with rising oil prices making Modi and his government look woefully inept. The ‘doer’ brand of Modi has taken a huge hit, and people are questioning the 2014 promises of development and one crore jobs.

There was also the promise of how Modi will bring back black money stashed abroad and the poor will get Rs 15 lakh in their bank accounts. In that hope, millions of poor went and opened new bank accounts when Modi gave a call.

So, when Bhagwat raises the pitch for a Ram temple at Ayodhya without waiting for the Supreme Court ruling, he is merely demonstrating his knowledge of Karl Marx well. Religion after all, the German philosopher-economist said, is the opium of the masses. And, what better way to lure people than a “bhavya” (grand) Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.

Also read: Ayodhya issue may not linger beyond 2019 elections

And, by trying to connect the construction of the Ram Mandir with the concept of swa (self) of the Hindu masses, Bhagwat has set the tone for the poll campaign as well as sent out a message to the BJP – if you want to honour the “swa of the nation”, better bring in a legislation quickly to facilitate the construction of the temple.

“It is in nobody’s interest to test the patience of the society without any reason. The construction of the temple is necessary from the self-esteem point of view… the decision regarding ownership of the land should be expedited, and the government should clear the path for construction of the grand temple through appropriate and requisite law,” he said in his speech.

Could he have been any clearer than this? But, can the temple be built before 2019 elections?

No. But, then, who wants the temple: why kill the goose that lays a golden egg every (election) day?

Helping the RSS-BJP cause is last month’s verdict by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court wherein it was decided the issue of whether mosque is integral to Islam – the Ismail Faruqui judgment in 1994 answered this question in the negative – shouldn’t be referred to a larger bench.

The verdict, incidentally, also allows the court to decide the land title suit. Most importantly, it upholds the state’s right to acquire land – including the disputed land at Ayodhya – under the eminent domain principle.

Although the court has ordered that the title suit case be heard as a regular matter from 29 October, the chances of the court delivering its judgment before the election campaign picks up are remote.

So remote that the BJP won’t be able to use the judgment to its advantage. The RSS understands this and knows that the proponents of the temple will be more than happy if the government simply brings in a legislation to declare that the land in question belongs to Ram Lalla. Start with an ordinance, then bring in a bill in the Winter Session – possibly the last session of the current Parliament – to turn the ordinance into a formal law, and dare the “opponents” of Ram Mandir to say no to it.

For the Congress, it is a double-edged sword: if it opposes the legislation, it is doomed among the Hindus; if it supports, it is doomed in the eyes of the Muslims.

And, if the BJP rulebook under Narendra Modi-Amit Shah is any indicator, this challenge looks very likely. The gauntlet will be thrown down.

Also read: Explained: All things Babri, Faruqui and Ayodhya

Will BJP allies agree?

Don’t be mistaken. Modi isn’t our run-of-the-mill politician. He believes in victory at any cost. If some allies aren’t happy, so be it. The BJP is already scouting for new alliances to improve its prospects in territories where it not that strong.

The aim is winning seats, not necessarily allies. Also, which ally can afford to go against the Hindu sentiment in these polarising times?

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