Notwithstanding reservations held about the nature of the judicial verdict on the disputed Ayodhya-issue, there is no denying that what was once viewed as an electoral and communal bomb now seems devoid of almost all its political strength. Yes, even before the verdict was pronounced, common people had ceased being taken for a ride by political hype raised about Ayodhya-issue, particularly when elections were round the corner. And why not? After all, this is 2019 and not 1992 when means of communication had hardly reached the stage that they have now. December 6, 1992-events of the day when Babri Masjid was demolished were not telecast live. Means of doing so were not available then in India. And yet, that was the phase when most parts of the country were rocked by communal riots.
A decade later, Gujarat-carnage tainted India’s secular image. Images of communal happenings in the state were telecast through Indian channels also. However, these did not provoke people in the rest of country to stage any communal frenzy. Rather, people opposed the happenings in Gujarat. When means of communication were fairly limited, communal disturbance over Ayodhya-issue occurred almost throughout the country. When people had access to several means of communication, Gujarat-carnage failed to spread across the country.
Clearly, the preceding point is a crucial indicator of what has seldom been given importance while analysing Ayodhya-issue as well as Gujarat-carnage. This refers to how common people, the majority of Indians—irrespective of their religious, regional and other forms of identity—view the issue being considered as a communal bomb. People, during both the phases—1992 as well as 2002—were strongly critical of the accompanying communal riots. Here, it is important to note, each and each every Indian was not involved in 1992 communal rage. Yet, to this day, impression stands as if all Indians across the country were engaged in fighting with each other.
The word “impression” has played innumerable roles regarding Ayodhya-issue. Of late, of course, “impression” created about its importance as a part of political campaign has failed to have any significant impact on voters. The “impression” created about the issue having really played a major role in helping the saffron-brigade gain political importance needs greater analysis. It cannot be denied that the issue was used as a political platform by the saffron brigade to promote its political wing, that is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). There is, however, another side to this aspect which has not been substantially elaborated upon. And this refers to the decline of the Congress, rise of several regional parties and also of BJP taking place roughly around the same period.
If the Congress still held the dominating position, which it earlier did, prospects of rise of the regional parties and BJP may have been further delayed. This also suggests that BJP-stalwarts probably chose to start playing on Ayodhya-issue only after they became convinced about the the Congress being devoid of strong leaders. Considering that the Ayodhya-dispute had been lingering for over a century, it is rather amazing that the idea of taking out chariot-processions, etc to promote the issue among the masses did not strike the saffron brigade prior to the gradual fall of the Congress from the importance it held earlier.
The latter opportunity, that is the declining prowess of the Congress, was used by the saffron brigade to create the impression of their key agenda being construction of a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. It is possible, as suggested earlier, BJP may not have witnessed any political elevation if Congress had retained its former standing. The role played by the Ayodhya-issue in promoting BJP’s campaign and that too primarily in the Hindi-belt cannot be de-linked from the decline of the Congress. It may be recalled, during 2014 and 2019 parliamentary polls, Narendra Modi did not promote Ayodhya-issue during his electoral campaign. Also, to step onto the national stage, he donned the “secular” mask during his campaign for 2014 elections. In 2019 and earlier, attempts made by the saffron brigade to play on Ayodhya-card for votes failed.
Nevertheless, the “impression” has persisted about the “importance” of the Ayodhya-issue among Indians at large. Yes, there is no denying, that the Hindu-religious beliefs regard Ayodhya as the birthplace of a primary deity of theirs whom they worship as Lord Rama. But the “impression” about it being the sole cause of BJP’s political elevation needs to be corrected.
There is no denying that media seldom ignores “news” related to Ayodhya-issue. However, with majority having access to numerous means of communication, there is no guarantee that what is given substantial media coverage would bear the same importance for common people. Media-power does play a major role in creating an “impression” about an issue’s importance. But the gap between impression created by media and that held by the people in general has often been missed leading to manipulated opinions at various levels about key issues, including the Ayodhya-dispute. Restraint exercised by people towards judicial verdict (November 9, 2019) only further proves that what was viewed as a communal bomb, resting on manufactured political notions, has now burst as a bubble!