On the 9th of November, the Supreme Court delivered its historic verdict on the Ram Janmbhoomi dispute in the favour of Hindus. For almost three days now, praises are being showered on the apex court, especially CJI Ranjan Gogoi for taking up the challenge of day-to-day hearings on the matter to expedite the judicial process.
While it is true that the judiciary’s contribution has been immense, one cannot forget the Bhartiya Janata Party, particularly PM Narendra Modi for remaining adamant on this ideological and dharmic promise of building a Ram Mandir at the site.
The Ram Janmbhoomi dispute had been gathering steam since mid 20th century, when large number of pilgrims started visiting the site after news went viral that two idols of Ram and Sita had miraculously appeared in the sanctum sanctorum. Subsequently, the government closed down the gates of the premises and declared the site to be ‘disputed’. In 1980s, when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, RSS and the BJP galvanized a huge campaign for the restoration of the Ram Mandir, the Rajiv Gandhi government opened the gates of the premises once again, fearing an electoral loss due to mass resentment among the Hindus. The campaign climaxed in 1992, with the demolition of Babri Masjid.
The first elections which were held after the demolition of Babri were in 1996. This was the first time when the mention of a grand Ram Mandir appeared in the BJP’s manifesto. From 1996 to 2019, Ram Mandir has been a constant in the party’s election manifestos. By doing so, the party has successfully kept the burning issue alive even in an era where media penetration was low and the digital medium was non-existent. Naturally, the promise of Ram Mandir has reaped electoral benefits for the party too, however, not necessarily always. For instance, in 2004 and 2009, though Ram Mandir remained a core promise of the party, they were not voted to power.
Coming now to the man of the hour, PM Modi. It is no secret that PM Modi has been a vociferous supporter of a Ram Mandir at the Janmbhoomi. However, unlike other leaders of the BJP, he did not make much noise on the issue. There were occasional mentions of the same, but he did not explicitly make ‘Ram Mandir’ a part of his campaign trail, either in 2014, or 2019. However, he also made his intentions known. The people, in 2014 intuitively gauged the fact that Narendra Modi would be a Prime Minister who would do what was rightfully needed to be done. Hence, the immense victories in his favour.
It is worthy to mention that PM Modi has maintained a fine line between his religious and ideological beliefs, and his constitutional obligations. It is a known fact that he would not explore any unconstitutional means to get a Ram Mandir built at the site. Even when many within the BJP, and a number of the party’s supporters were getting impatient with the delay on the issue, PM Modi maintained his calm and remained adamant on a constitutional resolution to the dispute.
In an interview to ANI on 1st January, 2019, replying to a question on Ram Mandir, PM Modi stated that he would want a judicial and constitutional resolution instead of taking suo-moto action on the case. In the same breath, he also hinted at the ordinance route for the construction of a Ram Mandir, however, he made it amply clear that his government would look into the issue only after the Supreme Court gave a verdict. He had also been a strong proponent of an early resolution to the dispute, and heavily criticized the Congress for its delaying tactics on the matter.
On the issue of Ram Mandir, the 2019 party manifesto stated, “We reiterate our stand on Ram Mandir. We will explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution and all necessary efforts to facilitate the expeditious construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.” The BJP led by PM Modi rightly positioned the construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya as a matter of great cultural importance and significance for India. However, Modi government was able to drive a balance between the Ram Mandir agenda and the basic Constitutional values and principles. What it stated in its manifesto was also clearly in line with this stance. Through its manifesto, the BJP promised to confine itself within the framework of the Constitution in its attempts to facilitate timely construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.
PM Modi, unlike past Prime Ministers, is an unapologetic Hindu. He proudly drapes the Bhagwa, performs Puja publicly, on national television, and continuously strives to work for the proliferation of Hindu culture in India. The fact that PM Modi called upon all Indians to maintain restrain after the verdict, further proves how he is also dedicated to uphold constitutional values. He urged all Indians to neither celebrate, nor sulk after the verdict, clearly saying that it was neither a victory, nor a loss for anybody.
If we consider, even for a moment, the repercussions of an executive overreach by the Modi government on the matter, the results would be catastrophic for our democracy. While many BJP supporters and Hindus were getting impatient with the Modi government and demanded an immediate ordinance to build a Ram Mandir, PM Modi rightfully ignored such demands. To bring in an ordinance on the matter even when a five-judge constitutional bench was hearing the matter in the Supreme Court would invite an unprecedented judicial wrath upon the Modi government. Moreover, it would be a forced imposition upon all Indians who may not necessarily want a Mandir at the site. An ordinance would have taken PM Modi down in the history books as a supposed ‘Hindu Dictator’. Now that the verdict has come from the highest court of the land, the dispute stands settled for once and for all. Thus PM Modi maintained a fine balance between respecting Hindu sentiments and the constitution
The opinion of any democratic country’s Supreme Court is of paramount importance. It is a fact that most cases are judged on the basis of evidence and legalities, however, it would be foolish on our part to think that public opinion has no role to play in decision-making, especially on a contentious issue like this. For almost thirty years, a large public opinion has persisted in favour of a Ram Mandir. Not only was the Hindu side strong on evidences, but it was also backed by a magnanimous public opinion in its support. The credit for galvanizing such public opinion definitely goes to the RSS and BJP. Else, like all other issues, this too would have been forgotten after initial outrage.