Seen against the rise of Hindu majoritarianism across India, the Congress’ impish welcoming of Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict doesn’t come as a surprise. The Congress is perhaps keen to keep the focus on the BJP and its recent failures.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, forever at loggerheads, now stand united in their commitment and devotion to the Ram temple. The Supreme Court has unambiguously cleared the way for a Ram temple by awarding the disputed site at Ayodhya to the deity, Ram Lalla Virajman. At the same time, it has admitted that historical wrongs have been committed against Muslims repeatedly in this case. Perhaps, that is why the Congress thought it better to play down the verdict by issuing a perfunctory statement not very dissimilar from that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who too stressed on maintaining peace and harmony.
However, Congress’ stand is at dissonance with its stand after the 2010 Allahabad verdict which had divided the disputed site of 2.77 acres equally between three parties, the Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla Virajman, and the Sunni Central Waqf Board. At that time, the Congress had maintained a studied silence while the BJP had welcomed the court’s decision to accept that the disputed site is in fact the birthplace of Ram and therefore awarded the area where the idol is situated to the deity.
However, soon after, the two Hindu parties failed to arrive at a consensus and appealed against the HC verdict in the Supreme Court; the Muslim parties had already done so. Subsequently, in a reversal of roles, the Congress welcomed the Supreme Court’s stay on the 2010 Allahabad HC verdict while the BJP remained mum.
While the BJP’s stand has remained consistent over the decades in favour of a Ram temple, it is the Congress which has always dithered on taking a clear stand and has only been reactionary with regard to the dispute and the larger issue of communalism.
In 1986, to assuage Hindu hardliners, it arranged the locks of the mosque to be opened even as it passed a legislation in Parliament to undo the Shah Bano verdict of the Supreme Court. Later, in 1992, it played with fire and Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, considered to be a sympathiser of the Ram temple movement, failed to protect the mosque from being demolished by frenzied kar sevaks. Post-demolition, it failed to keep its promise of rebuilding the mosque, and forever lost the confidence of the Muslims of Uttar Pradesh, who then moved en masse to regional parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party.
Decimated in 2014 and again in 2019, owing in no short measure to the image that the BJP successfully painted it in — that of being an appeaser of Muslims and being anti-Hindu — the Congress has been carefully keeping a safe distance from issues such as the Babri masjid-Ram temple dispute. Its scions and siblings Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi have been of late charged with doing ‘temple-runs’ before elections and wearing their Hinduness on their sleeves.
Seen against the rise of Hindu majoritarianism across India, the Congress’ impish welcoming of today’s court verdict doesn’t come as a surprise. Woven in this is also the reasoning within influential sections of the grand old party who believe that the BJP cannot be countered on the issue of religion and identity. Also notable is the fact that the Congress has chosen to focus less on the temple verdict and more on the economy, and on employment, as in the course of the day the party has issued several statements on issues such as demonetisation, the RCEP, snooping of journalists and members of civil society, and the Kashmir issue.
The Congress is perhaps keen to keep the focus on the BJP and its recent failures such as its less than impressive performance in Haryana and its loss of face in the wake of its virtual split with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Once again realpolitik has dictated the party’s choices rather than commitment to the foundational ideals of both itself and India — something that the party never misses a chance to hark back to.(Valay Singh is a freelance journalist. Views expressed personal.)Get access to India's fastest growing financial subscriptions service Moneycontrol Pro for as little as Rs 599 for first year. Use the code "GETPRO". Moneycontrol Pro offers you all the information you need for wealth creation including actionable investment ideas, independent research and insights & analysis For more information, check out the Moneycontrol website or mobile app.