With a little over 48 hours to go for the Delhi assembly elections, the Union government has decided to form a trust – The Sri Ram Janma Bhumi Tirtha Shetra – that will work for construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya and over 67 acres of land near the Mandir area has been allotted to the trust. A five acre plot has been allotted to Sunni Waqf Board for construction of a mosque. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the trust would comprise 15 members, including a Dalit representative, who will be in charge of the entire 67 acres of land.
These are in line with the verdict of the Supreme Court pronounced on November 9. The apex court had said that the trust would be formed within three months for the construction of the temple at the site where a sizable section of the Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.
The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament. Modi said, “I am happy to announce that at the Cabinet meeting today morning, we took significant decisions on the Ayodhya Trust. As per the order of the Supreme Court, we have set up a trust. The Sri Ram Janma Bhumi Tirtha Shetra will be the name of the trust. It will be an independent trust”.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the trust would comprise 15 members, including a Dalit representative, who will be in-charge of the entire 67 acres of land.
Since the decisions are in conformity with the judgment of the highest court one cannot find fault with the decision technically. However many may, and in particular the opposition, point out the timing of the decision and accuse them of political intentions, coming as it does on the eve of Delhi elections.
But that raises an obvious question. Why this decision, on the eve of Delhi elections? Is it in conformity with the regulations of the elections? BJP leaders may argue that the Ram Mandir issue is a national subject.
But the point is that the decision may influence the Hindu voters. Already the intense campaigning against the CAA by the top leaders of the BJP and various demonstrations in University campuses had surcharged the atmosphere.
In the initial weeks of campaigning, the Aam Aadmi Party had concentrated on development proudly explaining its achievements which did have an impact on the voters. The BJP on the other hand, had not many achievements to speak of and concentrated on CAA, which many felt was heading for a communal tilt and consolidation of the votes of the majority community. A recent survey by a national television agency predicted that the AAP will win 54-60 seats in the 70 member House. The BJP is projected to get 10-14 seats and the Congress at best two.
The survey also revealed that the Congress is not a formidable player in the Delhi elections making it obvious that the fight is between AAP and BJP. Surveys may not be all perfect. Many predictions have gone wrong. But in the Delhi elections this time AAP has a dominant presence, if one goes by media reports, including those few who are blatantly partisan in favour of BJP and particularly to Modiji. There was a marked preference for Kejriwal among the lower strata of society. Did all these lead to the Mandir decision by the Union Cabinet? One is not sure. But what is certain is that Modiji can even in a short time of over 24 hours through his oratory make the ‘Mandir’ a potent issue.
The poll survey showed, interestingly, that if the Lok Sabha elections were to be held now the BJP would win all seven seats in Delhi like last year. Clearly the electorate in Delhi has distinct preferences for the national elections, different from the ones for the local elections. The fact that the BJP had no leader to project for Delhi, a point Kejriwal repeatedly said in his campaigns, has made matters worse for the saffron party. The continued preference for Modi in the survey did make it clear that the BJP’s position is not all that enviable now compared to a year ago.
Another defeat would adversely affect the image of the BJP and its leader, already in an uncomfortable state with the economic situation, unemployment, high prices and the youth out on the roads opposing the CAA. Their angry protests are also due to the hopeless employment situation and poor career prospects after completion of studies.
With the last minute announcement of the Ram Mandir construction by a trust, after the stipulated time of the apex court, it appears that the BJP leaders have chosen to introduce a religious issue in the last few hours of the campaign. Seeing the campaign going in favour of Kejriwal did the BJP leaders choose to introduce the Mandir issue, which has potential to meet the challenge of the Aam Aadmi leader? After all the announcement of the trust could have waited for a few more days and the BJP could have preferred to be in conformity with the election law regulations and the model code of conduct. Having failed to constitute a trust within three months, a few more days could have been easily explained given the not so comfortable affairs in the country. Clearly the BJP leaders did not want to take any chances. The code of conduct after all has been violated a number of times by political parties and at best there can be a warning, and action taken against some candidates. There is no N.K. Seshan, the legendary CEC of yore, occupying the Nirvachan Sadan!
But there is an obvious question. Will the literate Delhi voter be influenced by the announcement of the Ram Mandir? There are many in the nation’s capital enjoying the bounty of free electricity and water, free rides for women on buses and metros and poorer sections happy with the better education standards and well equipped schools and medical facilities like mohalla clinics hitherto not within their reach.
Reasonable guesses apart, the election results may provide answers to the last minute introduction Ram Temple issue. Perhaps in the coming couple of days or soon after the elections either the voters or the BJP leaders may provide the answers.