The drumbeats of state assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh due in Feb-Mar 2022 have started. The current ruling party, the BJP and Opposition parties SP, BSP and Congress have entered the phase of campaigns. Going by initial indications, there is no likelihood of unity or understanding among major parties. More than the claims for seat-share, what prevent parties from coming together are religious-caste equations. Apart from the fact that the secular party of Congress is weaker than ever before in the state, SP and BSP is deterred from any tie-up with Congress by the realisation that it will be a losing bargain. The disunity of the opposition parties alone is sufficient for Yogi Adityanath's BJP government to feel comfortable. But observers point out that the track record of the government of the last five years is quickening the party's heart-beat. Facts and figures are emerging which prove that the government of Yogi is a total failure in the sectors of health, education, labour and law and order. Since Yogi's dismal performance in facing the Covid threat, which has stumped the country and the state, have been proved like daylight, it would be nearly impossible for him to hold out. Let alone the insufficiency of hospitals to admit tens of thousands of pandemic-affected patients, there was not even adequate facilities for disposing of corpses as a result of mass deaths which led to heart-rending images of bodies floating in the holy river of Ganga appearing in world media. The Modi-Amit Shah duo could only stand nonplussed at this national shame. One could say that few are the days without reports of communal tension, lynching by cow-protectors, harrowing tales of girls subjected to rape, the strangulation of media that expose such stories and reckless misuse of black laws. There were enough occasions for even the highest court to pull up the UP government. However, for all the loss of image of Yogi Adityanath, the BJP cannot hazard an experiment without him in the picture. That will not only upset caste equations, but is sure to create major implosions and cracks within the BJP ranks.
It is such circumstances that is pushing the saffron brigade into an all-out campaign by invoking the Ayodhya issue once again. Until attaining the declared goal of demolishing the Babri Masjid in Faisabad and building a Ram temple in its place, for long that was the sole election agenda of the sangh parivar. But that battle for Ayodhya should have ended. at least when they finally secured the Supreme Court's verdict which they wanted. But apparently that's not to be. It may be recalled that even as the apex court stated beyond doubt that there was no evidence to prove that the Babri mosque was built on a land where a temple stood, or that the plot had any place of worship at any time before the mosque came into being, the court finally granted the land to the party claiming it in deference to the simple belief that it was the birth place of Ram. The Muslim side did not even press review petitions against this patently questionable judgment, and remained silent about the Central and state governments' steps to implement the court verdict.
The construction of the temple complex at a cost of Rs 1,100 crore started in February 2020 by forming a trust as directed by the court. As of now there is no issue called Ram janmabhumi; nor is there any obstacle for the temple construction. If the parties are still hell-bent on using Ayodhya as the central theme in a campaign for the assembly election of early next year, there cannot be a worse political bankruptcy. This amounts to an open confession that apart from garnering people's votes for by invoking their faith-related sensitivities to the utmost on the Ayodhya issue again, they do not have anything to say on solving people's problems or the state's welfare and development. Even the participation of the prime minister Narendra Modi himself for the Bhoomi puja has to be reasonably viewed as part of vote-winning politics. But a more surprising truth is something else: the chief opposition parties, SP and BSP are planning to launch their election campaigns from, or to conduct huge rallies centred on Ayodhya, with the goal of proving they are more ardent Ram devotees. It is also part of history that once Rajiv Gandhi had kicked off the Congress's election campaign at the disputed land. If even after 75 years of independence, Indian democracy has not flung free of the anti-secular concept of exploiting to the maximum people's belief in legends and their fascination for epic character, it is pitiable if not outright shameful.