This Article is From Nov 09, 2019

The 2 Big Political Implications Of The Ayodhya Verdict

The Supreme Court's five-judge constitutional bench finally staunches the bleeding cut that was the contentious Ram Mandir/Babri Masjid case. It gives an unambiguous nudge to reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims. And closure.

Two important political implications for the Indian republic are immediately apparent.

The first - all political parties and leaders including the ruling BJP avoided using the judgement to grandstand and signal victory, which effectively means the end of the "Ram Mandir" as a popular issue to whip up sentiment.

Second, Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the paterfamilias of the Sangh Parivar, addressing a press conference after the verdict, said categorically that the "RSS is not meant for launching agitations, it believes in character-building."

This is hugely significant because the RSS had given wings to the Ram temple campaign. Bhagwat made it clear that for now Kashi and Mathura (which were part of the trio of agitation for the Sangh Parivar) were off the table.

This and the emphasis of Bhagwat, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah - the current ruling trinity of the Sangh - that the verdict was not a matter of celebration, was a reconciliation signal to India's Muslims.

Even the opposition sought to end the Ram temple as a political issue with the Congress welcoming the Supreme Court verdict after a working committee meeting. Clearly, interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi read the riot act to the party, so it was not caught like a deer in headlights as it was when Article 370 was abrogated (ending special status to Jammu and Kashmir).

The rare consensus between the ruling party and the opposition actually highlights the contentious nature of the issue. A BJP minister told me after the verdict: "It is good that the Supreme Court has given closure. We in the BJP realise that such issues have the potential to be so divisive that it would require another decade for closure."

Rich coming from a party that virtually rode to power on the Ram Rath (chariot), but significant if it ensures that the BJP does not make majoritarian grievance and a persecution complex an election issue.

One of the leaders of the original Ram temple agitation broke down when I spoke to him but he, too, said the dispute should not be used for majoritarian muscle flexing.

So what does the judgment mean? Going by the subdued reaction from the Sangh Parivar and even their satellites such as Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the BJP post Kashmir wants reconciliation to top the agenda.

Both Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar almost gave a choreographed, careful reaction welcoming the verdict and hoping for peace.

LK Advani, the original Rath Yatri who had memorably called the destruction of the Babri Masjid the "saddest day of my life", had perhaps sensed that the Ram Mandir as a political issue ended the day the mosque was pulled down. Advani chose to keep quiet on the day of the verdict.

The Supreme Court, by calling the destruction of the Babri Masjid unlawful, also sought to draw a line in the sand about the violent movement.

Senior BJP leaders say while the government will ensure that a grand temple is built in Ayodhya, the party will still tread cautiously on the subject and not seek political capital.

It is early days yet, but Shah had sent a stern message to the cadre against celebrations after the verdict.

The Modi government, with a little help from the Supreme Court, has now delivered on two promises on its agenda - ending special status to Jammu and Kashmir and a Ram temple.

The Sangh joke was "tareek nahi batayenge per Mandir wahi banayenge" (we won't tell you when but we will build a temple there)", a play on the BJP campaign slogan.

Coming up, as I had written in an earlier NDTV column, are a uniform civil code and a law for a two-child norm. Take the Modi government seriously - they actually keep divisive commitments.

All these measure have the potential to vastly impact the secular state promised in the Constitution. And yet, say BJP leaders, they are ideologically committed to re-drawing the secular consensus.

Watch this space.

(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.