BJP Checkmated by Allies on Temple Construction
Caught between a rock and a hard place
NEW DELHI: The BJP’s Ram temple agenda is facing obstacles from its allies in the National Democratic Alliance. At least three crucial allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party--- Akali Dal in Punjab and the Janata Dal(U) and Lok Janshakti party in Bihar--have made it clear that they will not support any move to introduce a law or an Ordinance for the construction of the temple at Ayodhya outside the Supreme Court ruling.
Even as ally Shiv Sena has stepped up the pressure for the Ram temple construction taunting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue, the other allies have dug in their heels and warned the government of adverse consequences if it gives in to the Sangh pressure and moves to clear the path for the construction of the temple at Ayodhya. The BJP is caught between a rock and a hard place between pressure from the Sangh and its affiliates to build the temple and a categorical “No” from the NDA allies before the Lok Sabha polls.
The Akali Dal that has been pursuing a softer line insofar as the central government is concerned has taken off the gloves in a hard critique of the BJP’s “anti-minority” policy. Akali Dal spokesperson Naresh Gujral told The Citizen that it was “high time that this targeting of the minorities stopped. There is a sense of fear and insecurity amongst the minorities because of the policies of the government and this cannot be tolerated.”
Gujral said that the Akali Dal had come on board the NDA in 2014 on the common agenda of jobs, economic development, good deal for the farmers, FDI. Instead the agenda has been “hijacked by the hardliners” and moved towards cow protection and lynchings, the temple issue, changing names of roads, and creating fear in the minds of the minorities. This, he said, has to end and all those in the Sangh parivar who have created this fear must be punished.
“If you don’t have tranquility and peace on the streets how can you expect economic prowess,” Gujral said adding that his was a party of the minorities and adversely impacted by the divisiveness. “We want India to stay united, we do not want Balkanisation, and for this all citizens must live with a sense of security,” he added.
“Let the courts decide about the temple one way or the other but we will not accept an Ordinance or a law in Parliament enabling the same,” the Akali Dal leader said. “This is not going to be acceptable,” he added.
A similar warning has come from the Lok Janshakti party that is part of the NDA and an alliance partner in Bihar. This also constituted a first, as the LJP has been fretting for a while now but maintaining its counsel under Ram Vilas Paswan. Now his son and MP Chirag Paswan has said that the BJP should put its foot down and not allow others to create confusion by raising issues like the Ram temple. He told the NDA meeting earlier this month that the focus should remain on development and not on divisive issues that confuse the people.
“We will abide by any verdict given by the court,” Paswan told the Indian Express. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also made it clear that he would not accept an Ordinance on the temple. The party has made it apparent that it will not support any Ordinance on the issue.
The BJP has come under pressure from the Sangh affiliates to bring an Ordinance or a law in Parliament to give in to the large scale mobilisation in favour of the temple construction. Several dharamsabhas have been held by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to under line this demand, starting with Ayodhya and moving on to Delhi and other states including Jammu.
The Supreme Court had earlier decided to take up all petitions on the temple issue in January. This had created a furore amongst the right wing parties with a ‘movement’ being started for the construction of the Ram temple. Fiery speeches at the dharamsabhas exhorted the BJP to construct the temple regardless of the courts, a demand reiterated with more sarcasm than pleading by the Shiv Sena. The hard position taken by the allies now might have put the brakes on any such move by the BJP before the 2019 general elections.