Ayodhya issue, the political baggage of a turbulent past, has returned to the national limelight at an inopportune time for the country. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s visit to the makeshift Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya was loaded with a political message from a resurgent BJP. This was the first visit to the Ram Lalla temple by any Chief Minister since the demolition of the Babri mosque in December 1992. While the televised and well-choreographed visit may have warmed the hearts of the saffron party’s core constituency, the revival of the emotive issue will only distract the attention from the more pressing public issues in the State. At a time when political atmosphere in UP is already charged up, the Chief Minister’s move was ill-advised and has a potential to rekindle the bitterness that marked the Ram Janmabhhomi movement more than 25 years ago. Apart from being a powerful symbolic value, Adityanath’s carefully-worded address, soon after offering prayer at the temple, gave a peek into the thinking of the saffron party’s leadership on the sensitive issue. Significantly, the move came just a day after a special CBI court in Lucknow framed charges of criminal conspiracy in the Babri demolition case against top BJP leaders, including LK Advani, MM Joshi and Union Minister Uma Bharti. It is clear that the BJP has decided to back these leaders to the hilt.
In fact, Adityanath himself met these leaders before they appeared in the court while in Ayodhya he was accompanied by Dharam Das against whom conspiracy charge has been framed. It does not augur well for the elected head of the government to be openly taking sides in a matter that is before the court. Though Adityanath favoured amicable solution to the dispute involving both the communities, he should have walked the talk by meeting the representatives of the Muslim community as well. There are fears that the BJP would revive the Mandir issue and polarise voters ahead of the 2019 general elections. The choice of Adityanath, who carries the Hindutva tag, for the CM’s post vindicates such fears. Instead of reviving an emotive and explosive dispute, the new government must justify its massive electoral mandate by focusing on pressing issues like law and order, employment, revival of sick industries, power, infrastructure and farmers’ problems. While there is no doubt that the Ram temple issue has been central to the BJP’s rise across the country, it must be noted that the post-liberalisation generation has no connect with the issue and is hungry for economic growth and prosperity. It is in the interests of this aspirational generation that the country needs to exorcise the ghosts of the past.