Ayodhya verdict to give BJP political heft in Bengal

Ayodhya verdict to give BJP political heft in Bengal Pradipta Tapadar Kolkata, Nov 10 (PTI) On the back foot since the NRCin Assam left out over 12 lakh Hindus, mostly Bengalis, theSupreme Court verdict on Ayodhya land dispute has provided theBJP in West Bengal fresh ammunition to polarise the state'selectorate ahead of the crucial 2021 assembly polls.

The apex court on Saturday cleared the way forconstruction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya,and directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to Sunni WaqfBoard for building a mosque.

The BJP which stormed into Mamata Banerjee's fortressearlier this year by bagging 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats ---riding on issues of TMC's alleged partisan approach and thepromise to filter out illegal immigrants --- faced immenseflak when the final NRC in Assam left out Bengali Hindus inlarge numbers.

Shortly after, panic gripped people in Bengal, withthe Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) employing the'anti-Bengali' rhetoric against the BJP and tilting the scalesin its favour to an extent.

At least 11 people reportedly died or committedsuicide in the state due to fear of exclusion from theNational Register of Citizens (NRC) -- a document containingnames of genuine Indians.

With Saturday's apex court verdict, however, theBengal BJP hopes to consolidate Hindu votes before the 2021assembly elections.

According to state BJP sources, it was the Ram Mandirissue in early nineties that had helped the saffron party, forthe first time in Bengal, to bag around 16 per cent votes.

'During the nineties, we failed to keep up themomentum and vote share dropped to 4-5 per cent. But now thepolitical ground is fertile for us, having bagged 18 seats and40.5 per cent votes in Lok Sabha polls. The Ayodhya issue willfurther strengthen our mass base,' a senior state BJPfunctionary told PTI on the condition of anonymity.

Pointing out that the promise of Ram Mandir was theonly constant in BJP's manifesto from 1996 to 2019, anotherstate leader said the party had been committed to cause ofHindus and Hindu religion.

'After NRC was published in Assam, some oppositionparties like the TMC tried to brand us as 'anti Bengali' and'anti- Hindu'. We were on a back foot for a while, but thisAyodhya case victory has provided us with much-neededammunition to secure votes in the state,' he claimed.

West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said the Sanghparivar's three-decade-old fight for the Ayodhya site finallyended in its victory.

'We do not want to get into politics over Lord Ram.

But the fact is that the BJP and the Sangh parivar have beenfighting for a cause over the last three decades. So if thereare brownie points to be made, it is quite natural that theBJP will earn it,' Ghosh maintained.

A section of saffron camp leaders felt that thesilence of the TMC on the issue provided the party with afresh opportunity to charge the TMC as a 'pro-muslim party'.

'Why is that neither the TMC nor Mamata Banerjee havesaid anything on the matter? They should clear their stand.

Actually they are apprehensive that welcoming the verdictmight anger their Muslim vote bank -- their mainstay,' stateBJP general secretary Sayantan Basu claimed.

The apex court judgment on Ayodhya's disputed sitebrought back memories of the decades-old Ram Janmabhoomimovement which propelled the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fromthe fringes of national politics to becoming a dominantpolitical force as it used the deeply emotive issue tomobilise Hindus.

Struggling to find a space in the country's politics,dominated by secular parties, the BJP under LK Advani hitchedits bandwagon to the temple cause in its Palampur resolutionin 1989, giving a defining Hindutva edge to its politics whichuntil then had lacked a popular cause celebre.

The TMC, which had maintained a complete silence onthe issue till Saturday night, said the BJP's dream ofconsolidating Hindu votes would fall flat in 2021.

'The NRC in Assam has proved how sympathetic they areto the cause of Hindus. They can fool people once but theirdream of winning Hindus votes will fizzle out after 2021assembly polls,' a senior TMC leader added. PTI PNTRMS RMS