Even amid the coronavirus pandemic and the rapidly growing number of cases, if there is one thing that has diverted the attention of the citizens of the country along with that of the popular Indian media, it has to be the celebrations and festivities around the foundation stone laying ceremony ahead of the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya. From the guest list and the ongoing preparations and safety protocols to the live telecast of the festivities and rituals that are unfolding at the site, the national media covered it all religiously and for a moment, the pandemic worry was kept at bay.
While the rituals and celebrations caught our eyes and our imaginations, what was interesting to note was that politicians across the political spectrum reacted and responded to the events in a way that would help them please the Hindu vote bank and made sure that their gestures, words and actions didn’t hurt the sensibilities of the devout Hindu worshipper. While the ruling party has been at the centre of it all and has been spearheading the entire movement for reclaiming the land and ensuring that the temple is duly built at the site with extreme grandeur and cultural pride, and has been playing the dominant religion card along quite unapologetically, even its opponents are making the most of the moment by invoking Lord Rama and revisiting his mythical-religious character to embrace the Hindu vote bank.
While PM Narendra Modi called the future temple a site symbolising modernity and an epitome of Indian people’s resolve towards tradition, nationalism and faith, Union Home Minister Amit Shah congratulated fellow citizens and appealed to them to keep their efforts running for the preservation and restoration of Indian values.
In the BJP ruled states such as Assam and Karnataka, the chief ministers offered their prayers from their residences and congratulated the people on the occasion. While the nation was addressed and loud chants of Jai Siya Ram set the tone for the day, let us look at how major leaders of the Opposition reacted to the occasion.
With #JaiShriRam rendering across the globe, I bow down before Prabhu Shri Ram on this auspicious day and pray for strength & peace.
Let the historic occasion of Bhoomi Pujan of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir mark the resurgence of Bharat Mata’s pride and glory. pic.twitter.com/8hgJeSe5rq
— Sarbananda Sonowal (@sarbanandsonwal) August 5, 2020
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi offered his prayers after the bhumi pujan ceremony and after that he tweeted in Hindi, wherein he said, “Lord Rama is the manifestation of the best of human qualities. They are the core of humanity in the depths of our mind.”
मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम भगवान राम सर्वोत्तम मानवीय गुणों का स्वरूप हैं। वे हमारे मन की गहराइयों में बसी मानवता की मूल भावना हैं।
राम प्रेम हैं
वे कभी घृणा में प्रकट नहीं हो सकते
राम करुणा हैं
वे कभी क्रूरता में प्रकट नहीं हो सकते
राम न्याय हैं
वे कभी अन्याय में प्रकट नहीं हो सकते।
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 5, 2020
This is an important turn from the Congress’s secular projections that have been maintained so far. Congress has always stopped itself from openly embracing Hinduism and stuck to to its secular image, but this marks an portent shift from its earlier stance because this is the first time that such an important leader of the Congress party has boldly come to the public domain and made a bold statement in favour of a Hindu symbol to appease the vote bank, without fearing of tarnishing its secular image. Earlier another important leader of the Congress, Priyanka Gandhi had said, “The Bhoomi poojan ceremony of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has been scheduled for August 5, Hope this event comes a celebration of national unity and brotherhood and cultural harmony in accordance with the message of Lord Rama .”
She also said that Lord Ram was an important mark for the Indian civilisation. With important leaders of the Congress openly coming out in praise, the clear shift in the party’s stance is detectable.
The sudden change in the party’s stance has resulted in some kind of discomfort within the party also. But keeping an eye on the upcoming polls in several Indian states, many leaders of the Congress including former MP CM Kamal Nath, MP Digvijay Singh, Party Spokesperson Manish Tiwari and, Gujarat Congress leader Hardik Patel among others have contributed money and support for the construction of the Ram Temple. The way many leaders of the Congress have been crossing the secular lines that they stayed inside for generations ahead of the upcoming polls in many states is surprising and evidence of the fact that nobody is a permanent friend and nobody is a permanent enemy in politics and for the sake of the vote bank, everything is possible. Politics is a game of convenience and the Congress has begun to play it right.