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Ram Mandir: Modi's Hindutva Credentials are Soaring. What About the Opposition?

As the Ram Mandir inauguration unfolds, its timing becomes a critical crescendo, harmonising with the 2024 election.

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The air in Ayodhya hums with the thrum of chanting mantras and the flutter of saffron flags. The Ram Mandir finally rises from the dust of controversy, its golden dome glistening like a promise fulfilled.

For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this isn't just a triumph in brick and mortar; it's an ideological conquest, a coronation of sorts.

With a single stroke, he has claimed the mantle of Hindutva's foremost champion, etching his name into the very fabric of Hindu identity.

From a social, historical, and political standpoint, the perennial question persists: does the Ram Mandir symbolise justice and triumph, or does it represent injustice and shattered dreams of justice for India's minority communities?
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However, for the BJP, it stands as a monumental political triumph. This is Mission 2024, writ large. While the BJP has flirted with the politics of polarisation and religious sentiment before, Modi has weaponised it. The clarion call of Hinduism takes centre stage as development, the war cry of previous campaigns, fades into the background. Beyond the electoral theatre, the Ram Mandir inauguration on 22 January represents a seismic shift in the cultural landscape.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has long cherished an agenda of asserting a dominant Hindu identity, which is what Modi's Hindutva leadership is about. This vision of a "Hindu Rashtra" carries within it the potential to rewrite social dynamics, redefine rights, and reshape the nation's trajectory.

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A Strategic Political Symphony Ahead of the 2024 Elections

As the Ram Mandir inauguration unfolds, its timing becomes a critical crescendo, harmonising with the approaching 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The upcoming electoral saga marks Narendra Modi's bid for a historic third term, a potential watershed moment. The synchronicity with the 2024 elections underscores the strategic acumen of the BJP, helmed by Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

Benefiting from the Supreme Court's verdict, Modi adeptly harnessed legal, social, political, administrative, and economic forces to actualise the mandir. This victory not only solidifies the BJP's standing but also elevates his political legacy, marking a momentous chapter in his political journey.

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Modi's Evolving Political Canvas

Amidst the echoes of Hindutva, the discourse shifted noticeably with the initiation of the Ram Mandir project, portraying Modi as a leader with a Hindu ethos.

In the annals of the BJP's leadership, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the venerable former Prime Minister, emerged as the face of the saffron party, yet his image wasn't synonymous with India's Hindutva. Today, Narendra Modi has achieved that distinction.

The BJP's forthright approach adds weight to this significance, hinting that in the 2024 general elections, Hindutva and polarised politics will claim centre stage. The Ram Mandir issue is poised to dominate political discourse, steering the narrative towards nationalism and Hinduism. How the opposition strategises to counter this, considering the sentiments of the people, will be a captivating watch.

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A Socio-cultural Paradigm Shift

The Ram Mandir's inauguration signals a socio-cultural earthquake beyond the religious celebration. Modi's Hindutva leadership galvanises the faith, transforming the temple into a symbol of the RSS's Hindu Rashtra vision.

This cultural resurgence, permeating societal spheres, raises urgent questions. India's history lacks a comparable, nationwide temple inauguration event. This unprecedented moment ignites fears of a transformation unravelling India's diverse, pluralistic, and secular tapestry.

Concerns mount about the BJP and the RSS wielding their "unassailable authority" to alter the constitutional landscape, potentially erasing the word "secular." Standing at a critical juncture, India's future trajectory hangs in the balance.

This moment demands vigilant scrutiny, for the Ram Mandir is not just about bricks; it's about the ideological architecture shaping the nation's destiny and the potential erosion of its democratic ideals.

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Opposition's Ayodhya Abdication

In the opposition benches, there is not a whimper of dissent, but a deafening silence. While saffron flags flutter and chants reverberate through Ayodhya, the majority of India's opposition parties have chosen to stay away—a tactical retreat masquerading as a principled stand. This self-inflicted wound has handed PM Modi a victory far grander than the Ram Mandir's golden dome. Let's be clear: no Indian political party is a stranger to religious pandering. The Congress dabbled in it, and the regional parties revelled in it.

But Modi, ever the grandmaster, turned the very stage of this familiar drama into a trap. By extending an invitation to Ayodhya, he forced the opposition to reveal its hand. Boycott the ceremony, risk alienating Hindu voters, attend, and be branded complicit in his political appropriation of faith.

The opposition, paralysed by Hobson's choice, opted for the easier path—retreat. But in sacrificing the symbolic battlefield of Ayodhya, they've ceded ground far more crucial. Modi stands alone on the victor's podium, basking in the unchallenged narrative of a leader fulfilling a national dream.

Does this mean the opposition is doomed? Not necessarily. But their path to 2024 now winds through a minefield of their own making. They must navigate the delicate terrain of religion and identity without appearing opportunistic while offering a compelling alternative to Modi's saffron vision.

Their silence in Ayodhya may resonate only amongst the already disenchanted; to win, they must speak to the anxieties of the uncommitted, those beyond the Hindi heartland where Ram Mandir holds less sway. The opposition's Ayodhya abdication is a stark reminder that political gambles come with unforeseen consequences.

While they may have preserved their secular credentials, they've handed Modi the narrative he craves. If they are to rise again, it will be on a new battlefield, demanding a new political playbook. Time will tell if they possess the resilience, the unity, and the vision to reclaim the ground they've so willingly surrendered.

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Ram Mandir's Political Impact Beyond the Hindi Heartland

While the echoes of the Ram Mandir inauguration resound powerfully in the Hindi heartland, its political reverberation dwindles as one ventures into diverse territories. In the south, east, and tumultuous northeast, the significance of Ayodhya's triumph prompts varied responses—from silence and ambivalence to outright dissent.

In these regions grappling with unique socio-economic challenges, the temple's symbolism holds little immediate sway. Priorities revolve around livelihood, language, and cultural identity rather than saffron flags. The opposition, therefore, may not be demoralised, but their capacity to mobilise support beyond the Hindi heartland remains a pressing question.

As India's political landscape extends beyond its traditional strongholds, the Ram Mandir's impact faces regional intricacies that challenge its assumed nationwide dominance.

[The author teaches journalism at St. Xavier's College (autonomous), Kolkata, and is a columnist (He tweets at @sayantan_gh.) This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.]

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Topics:  Ram Mandir 

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