Ayodhya, May 2 : There seems to be no Temple issue before the candidates or voters here.
Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh have apparently moved on to nationalism. Opposition parties also have avoided any debate to stem polarisation of the electorate. Ayodhya is humming with pilgrims and tourists in this extremely hot weather and Vishwa Hindu Parishad workers, always eager to show them the workshop and the Ram temple model placed at Karsevak puram, are mum on their demand. Till recently, they had threatened to launch a do-or-die battle and demanded an immediate ordinance for construction of the Temple.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the alliance, too, seem to have avoided to enter Ayodhya as they held public meetings just near the borders. However, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a road show in Ayodhya last month and visited Hanumangarhi temple, but not going to the Ram Lalla temple at the disputed site was questioned.
Mitrasen Yadav factor
The temple town of Ayodhya is part of the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency. The district of Faizabad has ceased to exist, after it was recently renamed as Ayodhya by the Yogi Adityanath government of the state. Ayodhya has seen a geographical expansion as it is a district now but the parliamentary constituency is still Faizabad which goes to the polls on May 6, Monday.
With five assembly constituencies of Dariyabad, Rudauli, Milkipur, Bikapur and Ayodhya, the Faizabad Lok Sabha seat has not been a BJP bastion as many would expect.
While at present, the constituency is held by BJP’s Lallu Singh, in 2009 it was with the Congress and in 2004 with the Bahujan Samaj Party. Faizabad had sprung a surprise as early as 1991, when during the height of the Temple movement, the seat had voted in Mitrasen Yadav of the Communist Party of India. An interesting aspect of the victory of the Left in 1991 or Samajwadi Party in 1999 and BSP in 2004 was that it was the same candidate Mitrasen Yadav each time. Mitrasen Yadav's personal clout in the region, coupled with its caste chemistry, successfully countered BJP’s 'Hindutva politics.'
Following his death, it is his son Anandsen Yadav who is the alliance candidate from Faizabad. Lallu Singh is re-contesting on the BJP ticket while Indian National Congress has fielded former MP Nirmal Khatri.
From a demographic perspective, Yadavs constitute around 13 per cent of the total voters - almost half of the total Other Backward Classes presence in the constituency. Minority community constitutes 15 % and Dalit voters are around 4 pc. Upper caste Hindu voters make up 29 per cent.
BJP is apparently eyeing the upper caste segment along and hopes to make the maximum possible dent in the remaining 13 pc of the non-Yadav OBCs and 10 percent of the most backward caste voters. Congress, however, hopes that caste calculations will fail in front of the candidate’s own image and the party’s promises under the NYAY (minimum income guarantee )scheme.
'I have no caste. I won in 2009 because people went for larger national interest and Congress government’s good work. This time again they will vote for the Congress, to end misrule of Modi Government,' affirms Mr Khatri, who is campaigning intensively. 'BJP has always used the name of Lord Ram for political gains. They did nothing on temple front, during their government, therefore they are not talking about it now, he adds. BJP’s Lallu Singh has no qualms in admitting that Mandir is not the issue of the moment.
'People will vote to make Modi the Prime Minister again,' he asserted. No surprise then, the slogan on his car is 'Phir ek baar Modi sarkar.' Clearly, the party hopes nationalism and Brand Modi can supercede caste chemistry.
Probably it was this realisation that the Temple issue can no longer fight against the caste consolidation that also kept the Premier away from the temple town, despite him addressing an electoral rally on Wednesday in neighbouring Ambedkar Nagar Lok Sabha constituency, some 25 km away.
Mr Modi chose not to mention even a single word about the Ram temple-Babri Masjid issue. He, however, concluded his speech with the chant of 'Jai Shri Ram.'
Mahant Parahamhans Das of Tapasvi Chavni, who was jailed for his threat to carry out self-immolation if the Modi-led Centre does not bring an Ordinance on Ram temple, said the reason why the BJP is not talking of Mandir now is that it wants to avoid uncomfortable questions.
'The moment they talk of Mandir, people will ask what they did for it and why no Ordinance was brought for its construction.' When VHP’s national vice-president Champat Rai was asked as to why the Temple was no longer a poll issue for him, even though the Dharma Sabha held last year in Ayodhya had passed a resolution for an Ordinance, he tried to fend off the query.
Mr Rai affirmed,'Mandir is never off our agenda, but at the moment we all are focused for return of a nationalist government. Temple will be built only if nationalism survives.' UNI