By P.K.Balachandran
Colombo, December 20:

The Ram temple issue which has divided India between the Hindu nationalistic right wing and the secular left wing for years, has no spawned a split in the Hindu nationalist camp itself. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s relentless pursuit of the personality cult is creating cleavages in the Hindutva monolith. 

The Ram temple management, obviously egged on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership, is trying to keep the pioneers of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement like Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi out of the inauguration of the temple in Ayodhya on January 22 so that Modi hogs the limelight entirely.

It will be a repeat of the personality cult displayed for all to see at the inauguration of India’s new parliament in New Delhi where the President of India was not one of the invitees. The absence of President Droupadi Murmu ensured that the focus of attention was Modi and Modi alone.   

The Ramjanmabhoomi Teerthkshetra Trust General Secretary, Champat Rai, had said it would be better if Ramjanmabhhomi movement veterans, L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, did not come for the consecration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya because they were too old. Advani, he noted, was 96 and Joshi 89.

According to Champat Rai, Joshi was insisting that he would come but he had to be repeatedly told that he was too old to stand the January cold. Advani was also told that he should not come in view of his advanced age.

But Champat Rai’s action has caused a split in the VHP and the RSS. He is a member of the VHP himself.

The media reported that the VHP chief Alok Kumar, along with senior RSS leaders Ramlal and Krishna Gopal, visited Advani at his Delhi residence on Tuesday and formally invited him to the Temple’s consecration ceremony. In a statement, the VHP said that both Advani and Joshi said that they would “try to attend”.

Kumar told Indian Express: “We have not only invited the two leaders but even requested them that they must attend. That is why during the visit to Advani ji’s house, the entire discussion focused on the logistics of making his visit possible. We told him that whatever may be required given his health conditions we will make those arrangements and that he must come.”

However, it is highly unlikely that the two veterans of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, would attend the consecration, uninvited by the temple trust, a Modi-Shah front.  

The idea of dissuading Advani and Joshi from attending the function in Ayodhya and not inviting President Draupadi Murmu to the inauguration of the new parliament earlier, are part of an ongoing  project to project only Modi. 

The Modi-Shah duo are assiduously implementing a plan to replace leaders of the Vajpayee-Advani era with others of a more recent origin. The idea is that all new leaders should be of Modi’s making not Vajpayee’s or Advani’s.

This is seen in the choice of Chief Ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh following Modi’s stunning victories in the recent State level elections.

In Madhya Pradesh, veteran Shivaraj Singh Chouhan, who won the elections despite opinion polls predicting a Congress victory, was replaced by a newcomer Mohan Yadav. In Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, another old-era leader, was side lined in favour of Bhajan Lal Sharma. In Chhattisgarsh, a tribal leader, Vishnu Dep Sai, was chosen in preference to a party stalwart and former Chief Minister Raman Singh.

These handpicked State leaders will ensure that the BJP-ruled States are completely under the thumb of Modi and Amit Shah.      

Sita Temple Controversy

Meanwhile, another controversy related to the Ramjanmabhhomi issue has arisen in Bihar where a Janata Dal (United) leader has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of not caring to build a temple for Sita in her birthplace Sitamarhi.

Accusing the Modi Government of discriminating against Sita Mata, the JDU’s national general secretary and spokesperson Rajeev Ranjan said that Lord Ram was incomplete without Sita as it was for her that Ram crossed the ocean and killed the demon Ravana. It is because of the glory of Mother Sita that every child of the country says ‘Jai Siyaram’ (Glory to Sita and Ram), not Jai Ramsita, Ranjan pointed out.

The BJP’s indifference to Sita’s birthplace reflected its political self-interest, Ranjan said. He charged that the BJP was not interested in Sita’s birthplace because the issue had no scope to create communal polarization (ie: Hindu-Muslim conflict as was the case in Ayodhya).

Ranjan said that the JDU government in Bihar has laid the foundation stone for the development works of Punaura Dham, the birthplace of Sita. Punauradham will be equipped with world class facilities.

But this is likely to touch off a row with Nepal which claims that Sita was born in Janakpur in Nepal and not in Sitamarhi in India. Janakpur and Sitamarhi are 50 km away from each other.

In June this year, the Mayor of Kathmandu, Balendra Shah, gave an ultimatum to the makers of the Indian film Adipurush urging them to delete a portion of the dialogue that referred to Sita as the ‘daughter of India’. He ordered all cinema halls in the Nepalese capital to stop the screening of Adipurush and all Bollywood films.

The Hindu quoted Shah as saying: “Three days ago we had called upon the makers of Adipurush to remove the objectionable section that shows Janaki as an Indian woman. The defence of Nepal’s sovereignty, independence, and self-respect is the first duty of all Nepalese governments, non-governmental organisations and Nepalese citizens. No Indian film will be allowed to be screened in the Kathmandu municipality area till the time this objectionable part is removed from the film.”

Eventually the ‘Adipurush’ dialogue writer had to revise the dialogues that hurt the Nepalese.

An important Bihari politician’s raising the issue of Sita’s birthplace may have the unintended consequence of triggering a fresh row between India and Nepal when relations between the two are not at their best.

Not so long ago, Nepalese Prime Minister K.P.Sharma Oli had raised the hackles in India when he challenged the notion that the Ayodhya of Ramayana was in India. He said that the Ayodhya referred to in the Ramayana was in Nepal!  Oli’s claim could not be brushed aside  because he knew Sanskrit and Nepalese folklore.