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Madhya Pradesh: BJP begins campaigning for state elections with billboards proclaiming construction of Ram Mandir


Mar 10, 2023
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In Madhya Pradesh, why BJP has brought out the Ram Mandir card as poll battle heats up​

The BJP is up against both anti-incumbency and a strong Congress that has adopted a soft-Hindutva strategy. In such a scenario, emphasising its pivotal role in the construction of the Ayodhya temple burnishes the party’s Hindutva credentials​

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan with wife Sadhna Singh during a rally to file his nomination papers for state assembly election, at Budhni in Sehore district. (PTI Photo)
The Ayodhya Ram temple inauguration in January was expected to give the BJP a leg-up in next year’s parliamentary elections but it has already become a poll issue in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh where the ruling party is battling anti-incumbency and a strong Congress.

Last week, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the temple’s consecration ceremony, which is expected to take place on January 22. Days later, hoardings proclaiming the construction of the “Bhavya Ram Mandir” and calling for the return of the BJP government propped up in various parts of Madhya Pradesh. With the temple’s image in the backdrop, these hoardings had the photos of Modi, BJP president J P Nadda, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and BJP state president V D Sharma, among others.

The Ram Mandir has also figured in the poll speeches of top BJP leaders. Modi on Friday said in Chitrakoot that the temple was on the verge of completion and it was his great privilege to be invited for the consecration ceremony. The following day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah accused the Congress of hindering the temple’s construction.

“In 2019, the people of MP elected Modi ji for the second time with a good number of seats and Modi ji laid the foundation stone of the temple. On January 22, the temple will also be unveiled. When I was the BJP president, Rahul baba (Congress leader Rahul Gandhi) used to mock us with the slogan ‘Mandir wahi banaynege, par tithi nahi batayenge (we will build the temple there but won’t give out the consecration date)’. Now we have built the temple and also have given the date. Now Rahul baba should go and pray,” Shah said at a rally in Junnardeo in Chhindwara district, which is the turf of Congress state president Kamal Nath. He again took this line of attack on Sunday at a rally in Ujjain.

In Madhya Pradesh, why BJP has brought out the Ram Mandir card as poll battle heats up
Hoardings proclaiming the construction of the “Bhavya Ram Mandir” have propped up across Madhya Pradesh. (Express Photo)

Congress’s counter​

The BJP’s move is a response to the Congress’s “soft Hindutva” strategy. In its manifesto released on October 17, the party promised to start the development of a “Shri Ram Van Gaman Path” and restart the construction of a Sita temple in Sri Lanka. The party has also promised to install a statue of Ram’s friend Nishad Kevatraj in Chitrakoot.

In a post on X on Vijaya Dashami, Kamal Nath quoted a chaupai from Ramayan — “Ja par kripa Ram ki hoi, ta par kripa kare sab koi” — to reassure the public that a Congress government would leave no stone unturned for the uplift of “aastha (faith)” and ‘sanskriti (culture)”. Before filing his nomination from Chhindwara, Nath, who is a Hanuman devotee, visited a local Ram temple.

On Saturday, V D Sharma said the Congress in essence was against “Ram, Hindutva, and Sanatan Dharma” and it had surfaced in the run-up to the elections. “Congress has objected to the Election Commission about the Ram temple hoardings and has demanded to get these hoardings removed. This is the basic character of Congress,” he said.

Referring to Congress leader K K Mishra’s comments the day before about the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Sharma said the language illustrated the Opposition party’s “Babar bhakti (devotion for Mughal emperor Babar)”.

Mishra said the complaints about the Ram temple hoardings had not come from the Congress but from some individuals. Asked about the Ram Van Gaman Path and Sita temple promises, the Congress leader said the Ram Van Gaman Path had been the agenda of the previous Congress government too. He targeted the BJP for playing politics over the Ram temple. “In place of basic issues of unemployment, youths, farmers, women security law and order, they (BJP) contest every election on agenda of temple, mosque, shamshan (cremation grounds), kabristan (cemetery), Hamas, and hijab,” Mishra said.

BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said the ruling party was the only one to commit to the construction of the temple at Ram Janmabhoomi and mention it in its manifesto. On the row over the hoardings, he said, “That is not the temple of Ayodhya only but it is a temple for the entire nation. MP has a connection with Ram temple. When Babri was demolished in 1992, MP was among the states where governments were dismissed and President’s Rule was imposed … Congress’s top leaders never visited Ayodhya for the darshan of Ram Lalla. They are against Lord Ram.”

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