With this government, always watch out for the messaging. The two Bharat Ratnas given to Karpoori Thakur and LK Advani are significant, as one was a tall backward caste leader, while the other spearheaded the Ram Janambhoomi temple movement. It’s the balancing of Mandal-Kamandal and this is the twin plank that the BJP will take to the people in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Those who thought that the BJP will only focus on the temple are wrong. Soon after the Pran Prathistha puja, the BJP wooed JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to switch sides. It was Nitish Kumar who had recently raised the demand for a caste survey that was later picked up by Rahul Gandhi and became a rallying cry for the I.N.D.I.A block. It was felt that the opposition had an issue to counter the temple and the Congress in particular began playing it up. But, the Congress hardly has any credible credentials to woo the OBC and backward castes. In fact this attempt came a cropper in the last round of assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
However there were other faces in the INDIA block that could carry this narrative forward convincingly, such as Akhilesh Yadav, Lalu Yadav and ofcourse Nitish Kumar. Having Nitish Kumar switch sides the BJP has managed to make a dent in the opposition’s plank of being the rallying point for backward castes. Giving the Bharat Ratna to Karpoor Thakur, a former Bihar CM, and a popular backward caste leader has only cemented the BJP’s point.
While speaking in Parliament during the reply to the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address, the Prime Minister also recalled how the Congress had destabilised the Karpoori Thakur government in Bihar (1968) and commented this was because the Congress could not tolerate a `backward (caste) person’. Even at the time of the Madhya Pradesh polls last year, there were those who wondered why the Congress was talking caste politics in a state where it was the BJP more than the Congress that had promoted OBC faces as Chief Ministers – Shivraj Singh Chouhan & Uma Bharti.
As for LK Advani, if he hadn’t set out on his Somnath to Ayodhya rath yatra in 1990 the temple movement would not have got such a fillip. It was the rath yatra that caught the imagination of the right wing and played an incremental role in helping the BJP form its first government at the centre in 1996, albeit only for 13 days. When the BJP talks about the Ram Janambhoomi temple, a huge chunk of the credit goes to the Prime Minister under whose watch the temple dream has come to fruition. But to remember and acknowledge LK Advani’s role is a gesture that will go down well with the party faithful. The two Bharat Ratnas and the Prime Minister’s feisty speech in Parliament while replying on the Motion of Thanks – and there u have it. The BJP’s bugle for Lok Sabha 2024 has been sounded.