An overt focus on religion and communal issues in the run-up to the polls could backfire on the BJP as it is yet to build the temple in Ayodhya.
Just when it seemed that the judicial process in the Ayodhya case was a step closer to a conclusion, new developments have meant that it will be some time before a verdict is given.
On Tuesday, January 8, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in an administrative order set up a five-member constitutional bench, comprising the CJI and Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud, to hear the case. However, on Thursday, January 10, Justice Lalit had to recuse himself from hearing the case after it was pointed out that Lalit had represented one of the parties in a related case in 1997.
A new bench will be constituted and hearing will resume on January 29, but it is difficult to expect a verdict anytime soon. The constitutional bench meets thrice a week and has to consider a huge volume of documents — 13,000 plus pages of witness statements, 4,000 plus pages of previous court orders, reams of translated documents from five different languages that need to be verified and so on.
What are the political implications of this delay? Will a delay in the verdict affect the electoral prospects of the BJP?
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said he was in favour of a judicial process (rather than issuing an ordinance while the process is underway), the expectations that the BJP will look at “exploring all possibilities” are high. The RSS welcomed Modi’s views, but the VHP has pressed the government to pass an ordinance.
Given this, there is a high chance that the BJP will be going to the polls this time by repeating its 2014 promise to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
After the defeat in the assembly elections last month, the BJP is on the back foot — now a delay in the Ayodhya case could hamper its electoral prospects in the crucial Lok Sabha polls.
The delay has in effect put the party between a rock and a hard place. An overt focus on religion and communal issues in the run-up to the polls could backfire on the BJP as it is yet to build the temple in Ayodhya.
An alternative for the party and government is to shift the focus towards development and ‘vikas’, and draw attention to initiatives such as the recent reservation Bill passed in Parliament. However, such a shift will turn the lens on the government’s development initiatives over the last four-and-a-half years — and the jury is still out on that.For more Opinion pieces, click here.