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  Opinion   Edit  12 Jan 2024  AA Edit | What is Congress' narrative? ‘No’ to Mandir invite fine

AA Edit | What is Congress' narrative? ‘No’ to Mandir invite fine

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jan 13, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Jan 13, 2024, 12:05 am IST

The Congress dilemma: Assessing the strategic move behind skipping Ayodhya's Ram Temple consecration

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge. (PTI File Image)
 Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge. (PTI File Image)

The decision of the Congress to “respectfully” decline the invitation extended by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust to its leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya must be seen as part of the party’s efforts to stop playing second fiddle to its arch-rival, the BJP, and try and recoup its space in the Indian political scene.

The party has stated that it has chosen not to attend the consecration, to be performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as “the RSS/BJP have long made a political project of the temple in Ayodhya” and “the inauguration of the incomplete temple by the leaders of the BJP and the RSS has been obviously brought forward for electoral gain”. 

The Congress as political party, or for that any political party, should have nothing to do with a place of worship; more so when it feels it is a political project by its rival. In fact, this is a late realisation for the Congress, for the party has danced to the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva tune on the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid issue all along, starting with the opening of its gates in 1985 to the permission granted to the shilanyas four years later and the decision to remain a silent spectator to the demolition of the Masjid which the Supreme Court has called an “egregious violation of rule of law”.

Those miscalculations practically undid the party across India as the BJP with its Hindutva ideology set the national political narrative and the Congress was caught in a dilemma of its own making — to follow the BJP in its Hindutva agenda or to stick to its traditional secular credentials. If the narrative is Hindutva, then the people have little confusion as to whom to follow, and the Congress met its nemesis, especially in the Hindi heartland.

However, by its decision to keep away from this religious function, the Congress has allowed itself to be exposed to the questions realpolitik will throw at it. The party has to fight elections, collect votes and come to power. The BJP has already started firing its salvos, labelling the Congress as “anti-Hindu”. It is for the Congress to ask the BJP to explain how the saffron party’s pet project which it had referred to in its election manifestos without fail will be the touchstone of others’ religiosity. 

By disowning the consecration ceremony, the Congress has practically left it to the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to run the gamut of the temple narrative. It is the necessary condition for a secular party to face an electorate made of mostly religious people but it needs to invent its own narrative to meet the requirements of the sufficient condition. 

The people have certain questions about the nation’s economic growth, including the question of an equal share in the nation’s prosperity. There is the example of nations in our own neighbourhood which pursued communal politics and failed their own people, and then there are examples of those who showed the bigots their place and joined the trajectory of development. It is for the Opposition bloc to show the people what course correction India needs. The Congress must realise that its future depends not on the BJP’s narrative but its own. 

Tags: ayodhya, ayodhya ram temple, malikarjun kharge, sonia gandhi