The grand inauguration of the Ram Lalla deity at the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya was watched not just within India but also across the world. It is being talked about not just a religious moment but also a civilisational moment, and it is easy to see why. For the BJP, VHP and the RSS, this was the culmination of a struggle spanning decades, but with the man spearheading the delivery, this sets the seal on Prime Minister Modi’s stature as the Hindu Hriday Samrat — and much more.
How can the Opposition hope to counter this?
Leaders like Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi have said that religion is not the purview of the BJP and they will visit Ayodhya at a later date; which they probably will. But no gesture, not even a united Opposition delegation visit to the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple can
make the same impact as the Prime Minister did on 22nd January when he led the Pran Prathisthapuja at the garbagriha in Ayodhya.
His speech that followed was the bugle call for the next round of general elections, just a few months away. While recalling the sacrifices made during the freedom struggle that culminated on Independence Day on 15th August 1947, the Prime Minister also added to it the sacrifices and struggles that lead to the inauguration of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple
on 22nd January 1924. He went on to point out that the Ram Temple would `epitomise our national feeling.’ That cultural nationalism that the RSS and BJP leaders have for long been talking about, found its culmination in Ayodhya that day. And lest we forget that at the time of the temple inauguration, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had embarked on the second leg of his Bharat Jodo yatra, talking about the divisive policies of the government, the Prime Minister made it a point to talk about Lord Ram as a symbol of national unity as well as diversity. In other words, from Hinduism’s highest platform the Prime Minister reached out and made a dent in the Opposition’s plank of secularism.
After this and given the enthusiasm with which the entire country celebrated the temple opening, it is clear that the event had its political spinoff. It wasn’t all cultural and civilizational, the sub-text was too sharp to be ignored. The moot question of course is, what can the opposition do to counter this ? Rahul Gandhi has been complaining that he
wasn’t allowed to visit a temple in Assam on that day. But that will hardly sway the voter fed on the optics of Ram Lalla’s triumphant return to his birth place. Meanwhile BJP workers are already talking about ushering in a Ram Rajya. The problem with the Congress narrative is that there is no single, powerful emotive issue that can connect with the public. There is a lot of well meaning talk about unity and nyay, but nothing is offered in concrete terms, let alone an optic on the same scale as the one we saw being played out on our tv screens on 22nd January. That is going to be the Opposition’s biggest challenge over the next few months.