Ram temple inauguration and consolidation of the BJP vote bank by Badri Narayan

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While there will be a maximum of 20 seats for this training course, only a few, as per their capability, will be selected to become a priest at the Ram temple. (File)

The caste survey-based reservation politics on which INDIA bloc’s parties seem to be relying may weaken due to the consolidation in the wake of the temple inauguration

The Ram Janmabhoomi issue, which brought about a transformative shift in Indian politics in the 1990s, will see a culmination of sorts on January 22, 2024. According to multiple reports, the idol of Lord Rama will be installed at the temple on that day. It will reportedly be a huge function, with thousands of religious leaders, from 136 Sanatana traditions, in attendance. This event is going to have a long-term impact on politics and society.

The inauguration is taking place just a few months before the 2024 parliamentary elections. In all likelihood, the ruling party and government will try to take the symbol and message of the temple — through social media and more traditional means — across the length and breadth of the country. Recently, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat asked the people of India to organise celebrations at temples near their homes. This is an indication that the RSS and affiliated organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad may work hard to transform the occasion into a “jan utsav” — an attempt, most likely, to make the inauguration a moment to revive memories among the majority community and infuse them with pride.

It is necessary to understand the section of the public that has emerged as the “Hindu” electorate, and the influence of events such as the Ram Janmabhoomi temple inauguration on their socio-political behaviour. In fact, the inauguration is far from an isolated event. Rather, it is part of a series of actions over at least three decades, which has produced a political consciousness. And, as we have seen many times over the years, “Ram memory” has proved its immense mobilisational potential, beyond and across caste and community lines, and contributed in making the BJP the dominant national force.

As we know, there are plans to build temples to other Hindu deities in this complex, such as Shiva, Ganesha, Hanuman, etc, as well as saints and deities related to the Ramayanic narrative traditions such as Sabari, Jatayu, Valmiki who are revered by various marginalised groups. So, the inauguration could also mark an inclusive narrative through religious symbolism, which has huge political potential.

The temple will politically benefit the BJP in three ways: First, the party will try to showcase that it has “resolved” the long conflict between religious communities around the site and fulfilled the promise made in many of its manifestos. Second, it will add to the PM’s political capital and the narrative that “Modi fulfils promises”. Finally, by showcasing Hindu pride, the temple may lead to more cohesive voting from the community in the general elections.

Opposition parties like Congress, Samajwadi Party, NCP and TMC may be compelled to come up with new ways to negotiate this rejuvenation of Hindutva identity. Could this mean an opposition narrative around what is colloquially called “soft Hindutva”? The caste survey-based reservation politics on which these parties seem to be relying may weaken due to the consolidation in the wake of the temple inauguration. This may also lead to a situation in which the “Hindu” public reacts against ongoing attacks on Sanatana Dharma by a few political groups like the DMK and certain neo-Buddhist sects.

So, in this way the inauguration of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple as an event and discourse is going to give a symbolic fillip to the politics of the BJP, and help it combat caste identity-based politics, which the Opposition alliance INDIA is aiming to develop as major resource for mobilisation in the coming parliamentary election. It will make PM Narendra Modi more influential in the hearts and minds of the masses, which may benefit BJP politically.

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