Congress’ ambivalence on Ram Temple is unbecoming of it
On the eve of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram temple in Ayodhya, several Congress leaders came out in open support while others chose to stay silent.
The Ram temple in Ayodhya is the crowning achievement of the Modi government and BJP-RSS will continue to seek mileage from it for many elections to come. The mood across the country during the groundbreaking ceremony indicates that the Babri mosque demolition is all but forgotten, with celebrations all around and the Hindu right basking in it. The Congress has chosen not to sit out on this positive vibe, with many of its leaders coming forward in open support of the project, confusing both supporters and the people inside the party.
Since 2014, Congress has been trying to counter the BJP narrative that it is “Muslim party”. In the run up to the 2019 general elections, Rahul Gandhi went on a temple-visiting spree in what was termed as soft Hindutva. This hadn’t yielded electoral results with the Congress reduced to a pitiable minority in the parliament. But surprisingly this only led to a doubling down on the Hindu nationalist narrative, a space in which the Congress couldn’t possibly compete with the BJP. Some voices within the Congress started echoing the BJP when it came to matters like Triple Talaak and the abrogation of Article 370.
The Ram Mandir is the biggest challenge yet to the Congress’ secular credentials. In an effort to align itself with the popular mood of the country and not appear “anti-Hindu”, it has sought to make sure the BJP doesn’t steal all the credit. It is reminding people that it was under its rule that the locks of the Babri Masjid were opened and the Shilanyas performed. Party in-charge for Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra released a statement saying that Ram is a symbol of brotherhood, unity and cultural fraternity and it was Ram of many people, not of one person or party.
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath arranged special prayers on the occasions and the state unit sent 11 silver bricks to Ayodhya for the groundlaying ceremony, possibly with an eye on the upcoming bypolls in the state. Rajya Sabha MP Digvijay Singh, the party’s national spokesperson Manish Tewari and former Union minister Jitin Prasada all came out in support for the temple. Others have meanwhile chosen to stay silent, unwilling to concede its secular stand and be accused of opportunism. This includes both veteran and newer members of the party. They believe this bipolar image of the party will only come to harm it in the long run, making it appear weak and ideologically bankrupt in the face of a strong BJP that has stood unwaveringly by its message of Hindu might. It may not win back any votes from the BJP but also might end up losing the support of those who are avowedly anti-right wing.