Centre’s move to return undisputed land in Ayodhya a last ditch attempt to motivate Sangh cadre?

The Centre’s decision to seek the Supreme Court’s permission to restore the excess 67-acre land around the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site to the original owners is being seen as a last-ditch effort by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to placate the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) cadre and Hindus saints who have intensified their campaign for construction of the temple.

Senior Sangh functionaries who spoke on condition of anonymity said the step is aimed to pre-empt any move by the saints to gather at the disputed site to start an agitation. A dharma sansad (meeting of saints) to take a call on the temple issue will take place on Thursday and Friday at the ongoing Kumbh mela in Allahabad. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is expected to attend the meeting.

On Tuesday, the Centre said it had acquired 67 acres of land, including the 2.77-acre disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site, and sought permission of the Supreme Court to return the excess land to its original owners.

“This step is an attempt to assuage the anger of the cadre who will play a key role in drumming up support for the party as it seeks re-election. The cadre was not mollified by the government’s claims that they are committed to the cause and it was during their tenure that the first temple was constructed in United Arab Emirates (UAE), a Muslim country,” said a senior functionary on condition of anonymity.

He said, during a spate of meetings that were held to analyse the BJP’s electoral setback in the three Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, there was unanimity in the feedback from the state units that not resolving the temple issue had adversely impacted the party.

Also read: ‘Ayodhya petition a legal decision, govt not touching disputed land’: Javadekar on Ram temple

Another functionary said the Sangh and party brass has been cautioned that saints could march to Ayodhya after the conclusion of the Kumbh on March 4, which could lead to a law and order problem and put the government in an embarrassing position.

“There are many within the Sangh and the party who think that the BJP will not fare well (electorally) if it gives preference to the Ram Temple issue over development issues; but the determination of the cadre and the position taken by the sants (religious heads) has pushed the party to do whatever it can,” the second functionary said.

While the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has been demanding that the solution is through the legislative route, it welcomed the government’s latest move.

Alok Kumar, international working president of the VHP, said, “The Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas had obtained the land for construction of Shri Ram Mandir. The Union government had acquired a total of 67.703 acres of land in 1993. This included the Nyas land. The Supreme Court had said in the M Ismail case that the superfluous land shall be returned to its owners. The VHP hopes that the Supreme Court shall expeditiously decide the application filed by the government.”

Political analyst Hari Desai, however said, the latest move is an attempt by the government to “dilute the anger and divert attention” of those demanding the temple at the disputed site. “They (government) know that people are angry that nothing was done in the past five years; so they are trying to pacify them,” he said.

First Published: Jan 30, 2019 07:16 IST

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