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How a delay in Ram temple hearing could help or harm BJP’s 2019 poll prospects

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As SC lists hearing for January, one section in BJP is worried about its restless voter base but another believes hearings closer to polls will benefit party.

New Delhi: A further delay in the politically and electorally sensitive Ram temple issue has sparked concerns in the ruling BJP about its voters getting impatient even though a section within the party does believe the matter being heard in court close to the Lok Sabha polls may end up benefiting it.

On Monday, the Supreme Court posted the Ayodhya dispute case for hearing in the first week of January before an appropriate bench that will decide the schedule for hearings. Effectively, this means the matter will now be taken up only after January.

A key electoral issue for BJP

The Ram temple issue has been key to the BJP’s electoral ambitions since the early 1990s, even, perhaps, responsible for the party’s steep rise in the decade. With assembly elections in five states due November-December and Lok Sabha polls scheduled for next year, the matter does assume even greater meaning for the party that is battling anti-incumbency at the Centre as well as in several states.

Tellingly, #Ordinance4RamMandir was the number two trend on Twitter within a couple of hours of the court’s decision Monday.

According to highly placed sources in the party, the court’s decision has caused concerns among the leadership as well as cadres about a disillusioned and impatient voter base.

“We know our core voter base is now getting restless. This does not bode well for us,” said a top BJP source who did not wish to be identified.

“They will demand a law or ordinance be brought in by the BJP government, which we will not do. This will cause even greater resentment among them and make them question our commitment to the issue. A timely resolution by the court would have taken the pressure off us,” added the party source.

Recently, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had also said the government should bring in a law to enable construction of Ram temple at the disputed site.

Also read: Ayodhya issue may not linger beyond 2019 elections

Concerns in UP BJP

Murmurs of worry among the leadership have already begun, especially in Uttar Pradesh from where the party had won 71 of the 80 seats in 2014, and on which a lot of its fortunes continue to hinge. More so, since the BJP has performed dismally in bypolls in the state, including in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home turf Gorakhpur.

“I don’t want to comment since it is the decision of Supreme Court. However, the adjournment of hearing doesn’t send a good message,” deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Keshav Prasad Maurya said.

Delay may add fuel to upper caste anger

Party sources said a bigger worry is the already simmering upper caste ire against it. The upper castes — BJP’s traditional vote bank — have been upset with the party for what they perceive to be its efforts to pander to the backward communities, particularly Dalits. The party had hoped a positive step in the Ram temple issue would give it the much needed balm to placate this angry voter.

“The upper caste vote bank will definitely demand we bring in a law or ordinance. When the Supreme Court diluted the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, our government brought in a law to restore the original provisions,” said another party leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“Upper castes will, thus, say if we could do it for Dalits, why can’t we bring in a law/ordinance for all Hindus?” the BJP leader said.

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

The second view

But there is one section in the party that appears more optimistic on the issue.

According to sources, there is a view that the closer the hearings are to the 2019 polls, the more it can benefit the BJP. Sources said this section believes that when hearings are at their peak, the party can raise the ante further and capitalise on the heightened sentiment of its key voter.

“If the hearings take place in, say, February, March or April — it will be in the news everyday just in time for the Lok Sabha polls,” said another party leader.

“This will help rouse voter sentiment in our favour. It is really a matter of how well we strategise and use it,” the BJP leader added.

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  1. BJP is destined to go in 2019 irrespective of the temple issue. The more aggressive they become about it, the more they will alienate themselves from majority Hindus. Amit Shah does not realize it, but he is giving the VHP and Bajrang Dal image to the ENTIRE BJP! The mainstream party used to have these two as its minor components, otherwise Vinay Katiyar would have become the BJP President long ago!

  2. Trust the apex court to always do the right thing. The Code of Conduct is in force in five states, until 11th December. A couple of months later, it will be in force all over the country, for the general election. A volatile time for a decision of this nature to be rendered. If the apex court judgment is being defied so openly at Sabarimala, no reason to expect it will be welcomed with a shower of rose petals by the losing side in Ayodhya. The case could be taken up for hearings after the Lok Sabha results are declared.

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