As far as symbolism goes, the choice of the date for bhumi pujan or the groundbreaking ceremony at Ayodhya could not have been more potent with political overtones. August 5 is the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, which had given a special status and provisions to the erstwhile state of J&K. The picking of the date obviously proves that there is more politics and less spirituality about the construction of Ram temple. To lay the foundation stone for a temple at Ayodhya on this very date is to underscore the politics of the Hindutva identity project that catapulted a marginal force to the centre of India’s electoral politics, with increasing majority in two consecutive polls.
Unfortunately, the beneficiaries of this majoritarian venture often overstate the efficacy of Hindutva as a vote-catching, electoral magic wand. The slow growth and final crowning glory of the Sangh Parivar is not as much because of its core agenda, including Ram temple, Article 370 and triple talaq (part of the scheme to implement uniform civil code), as it ought to be credited to a dispirited Opposition in complete disarray. But the sad truth of the practice of majoritarian politics is that a formula wrongly attributed to be successful gets used repeatedly. Kashi and Mathura could become the next pit stops for the newer raths of communal wrath. Even the diminishing electoral returns on communal investments would only prompt the protagonists to push for further polarisation, making themselves believe that ‘ek dhakka aur’ would get them another term in government.
The Covid times are inauspicious for religious and political events. Many in the Union and state governments are falling sick, testing positive and getting hospitalised. This should make the government reassess its priorities, particularly when the enemy is at our eastern doors. This is a moment when we want the nation united against the virus, on the economic crisis and the foreign policy challenges. The Supreme Court verdict has led to this Ram temple denouement, but now it should not further trigger internal dissensions. India cannot afford to remain a divided house.