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Thack­eray vis­ited Ay­o­d­hya on Novem­ber 24 and used the oc­ca­sion to goad the BJP, ask­ing the NDA gov­ern­ment to spell out a date when the Ram tem­ple will be con­structed. The build-up had started ear­lier, with Ut­tar Pradesh chief min­is­ter Yogi Adityanath chang­ing the name of the dis­trict from Faiz­abad to Ay­o­d­hya and promis­ing to build a 201-me­tre-tall statue of Ram a few miles away to tower over the dis­puted site.

On the other side, in the op­po­si­tion, BSP chief Mayawati al­leged the BJP lead­ers were or­ches­trat­ing the Ram tem­ple drama to di­vert at­ten­tion from its gov­er­nance fail­ures. Sa­ma­jwadi Party leader Akhilesh Ya­dav said, “The Supreme Court should take note of the sit­u­a­tion in UP. It should se­ri­ously con­sider the mat­ter and bring in the army, if re­quired. The BJP and its al­lies can go to any ex­tent.” The CPI(M) has urged cit­i­zens to com­mem­o­rate De­cem­ber 6, the day the Babri Masjid was de­mol­ished, as ‘De­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion and Sec­u­lar­ism Day’.

The Sangh pari­var or­gan­i­sa­tions and their al­lies are likely to raise the pitch af­ter De­cem­ber 11, once Par­lia­ment ses­sion be­gins and the as­sem­bly poll re­sults are de­clared. A pri­vate mem­bers’ bill on the is­sue by RSS ide­o­logue and Ra­jya Sabha mem­ber Rakesh Sinha is also likely to be in­tro­duced.

Con­sid­er­ing the le­gal com­pli­ca­tions, a de­ci­sion on the Ay­o­d­hya is­sue is un­likely from the Supreme Court be­fore the Lok Sabha poll in May 2019. The only route is a con­sen­sus on the Ram mandir is­sue among all po­lit­i­cal par­ties and stake­hold­ers or bring­ing a law for its con­struc­tion via the or­di­nance route. RSS leader In­dresh Ku­mar says the NDA gov­ern­ment is ready to bring a law on this by ini­ti­at­ing a leg­is­la­tion in Par­lia­ment. Such a law, though, will only be spelt out af­ter De­cem­ber 11. Ravin­dra Kush­waha, BJP MP from Salem­pur in UP, agrees. Kush­waha says the Cen­tre will bring a bill on the Ram tem­ple in the com­ing win­ter ses­sion and go for an or­di­nance if it is blocked in the Ra­jya Sabha. Haryana chief min­is­ter Manohar Lal Khat­tar, though, is more cir­cum­spect. “Ef­forts are on to build a con­sen­sus on the is­sue. There is no scope for an or­di­nance,” he says. The or­di­nance route, other BJP lead­ers too feel, is doomed since it can be chal­lenged in the courts given that the mat­ter is sub ju­dice.

With the pari­var rais­ing the pitch on the ground and the dis­cus­sions in Par­lia­ment, the at­tempt ob­vi­ously is to make the mandir is­sue a prime agenda for the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion. Whether it will help them or hurt them, only time will tell.

Sangh out­fits will likely raise the pitch af­ter Dec. 11, once Par­lia­ment ses­sion be­gins and state poll re­sults are in

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