BJP President Nitin Gadkari’s call to revive the mandir agenda could not have been more ill timed.
In a recent interview Gadkari said that the mandir issue is an important one for the BJP: “It is not about politics. It is about the faith of Hindus. It is not that the elections are here and we need to bring in Ram Lalla” he said. Even while denying that the BJP wants to cash in on Ram mandir for electoral benefit, Gadkari ended up doing just that. His denial was more an affirmation that the BJP is looking at Ram and his mandir to revive its fortunes.
Gadkari, it seems, is totally out of tune with current mood of the nation and its people. Gripped with the issue of corruption and rising prices, the electorate does not want to rewind bloody times. Nor go back to the communal divide that had ripped the nation post Babri masjid demolition. The scars have yet to heal: perhaps they never will. Yet Time drowned Memory and people decided to get on with their lives rather than spend time hating each other. Today they are united in fighting corruption and decrying the Government’s misdeeds. Today they come together as a nation to tell the Government that enough is enough and if it does not set its house in order, then it would be shown the door sooner than later. If that happens, then there is open space for opposition parties like the BJP to step in and take charge if possible. That is only if Gadkari lets them.
By giving the mandir call, he is only doing what is suicidal and misreading the writing on the wall. The disenchanted people of this country are looking out for someone—a person or party– to steer the nation out of the clutches of religion, caste and misgovernance: in other words free it from archaic mindsets and leaders who have exploited non issues to the hilt and often used irrelevant themes to ride the wave of power.
Gadkari’s mandir call is a reminder of that past which had once whipped up a religious frenzy. While it cannot be denied that the issue helped revive the BJP and brought it centre stage, it also must be remembered that BJP’s failure to honour its promise of constructing the ram mandir was its undoing. Consequently, Gadkari’s attempt to bring ram mandir back on track is a non-starter. It is one, which has a sting of betrayal and suffers from trust deficit. Under the circumstances, the BJP would do better if it confines itself to contemporary issues. On these it is proving to be an effective Opposition: in other words doing a damn good job be it stalling Parliament on the issue of corruption or staging protests outside.
But all this till Gadkari opened his mouth and with one single statement erased the gains that had showed up in BJP’s balance sheet in recent months.
This brings me to another point: rather a problem the BJP faces in projecting a national face. Gadkari certainly is nowhere near being one. Its younger leaders be it Sushma Swaraj or Arun Jaitley cannot match up to Manmohan Singh who even though he is non performing is still seen as a man with integrity. This is not to suggest that Swaraj and Jaitley are not but when it comes to the issue of national acceptability, they fall short.
To my mind BJP’s best bet is LK Advani. For the moment, till its younger leadership is ready to don the mantle, Advani is the party’s answer to the Congress. He is a tall leader and the BJP can look upto and depend on him to fill its leadership vacuum. If the BJP intends to remain relevant and make a national impact then it has no choice but to turn to Advani. The timing could not be better given that the Congress is on a backfoot. The BJP needs to seize the opportunity and the sooner it does this the better for it. Unless ofcourse it wants to write its epitaph. Gadkari’s mandir call, to my mind, seems to be the first step in that direction.