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Nitish, Paswan Slam the Brakes as Uddhav and RSS Steer NDA Towards Mandir Marg

Uddhav Thackeray and the RSS want Ram Mandir to be the 2019 election plank, while Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan want the NDA to focus on development agenda to protect their minority vote banks.

Updated:December 24, 2018, 1:06 PM IST
Nitish, Paswan Slam the Brakes as Uddhav and RSS Steer NDA Towards Mandir Marg
Illustration by Mir Suhail/
Mumbai/New Delhi: As 2019 Lok Sabha elections near, the NDA is being pulled in diametrically opposite directions by its constituents.

On the one side is Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray who has been buttressing his image as a Hindutva mascot with an intense push for Ram Temple. Taking a cue from RSS’ clarion call on temple, the Shiv Sena chief has firmly set his eyes on the Hindutva agenda.

On the other side are JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan and son Chirag, who feel that ‘vikas’ trumps ‘mandir’ as an election plank. The discomfiture in the BJP as it faces strong and paradoxical position of its allies on an issue critical to the surge of saffron politics in India is palpable.

The contradiction has come into sharp focus over the course of last 24 hours, with JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar saying the Ayodhya title dispute should be settled in court or via mutual understanding, signalling his reluctance in making it an election issue.

His views match those of the LJP leadership with Paswan Jr saying that mandir is not a priority for his party and that the alliance should sell development instead.

The allies’ advice to the BJP, even while the three parties were negotiating a seat-sharing deal in Bihar, is perhaps an attempt to placate their minority vote banks ahead of the general elections. But it makes the NDA look like a divided house as the alliance slowly runs out of time to come up with a common electoral plank.

The BJP’s dilemma is compounded by Thackeray’s belligerent pursuit of the ‘Hindutva saviour’ tag. After his Dharam Sabha in Ayodhya, the Sena leader is gearing up to again challenge the BJP on the mandir issue, this time in Maharashtra, which will also hold Assembly elections in 2019.

Both the BJP and the RSS have tested waters to check public resonance of Ayodhya on electorate in the just concluded assembly polls. It is not clear if Sangh would make a course correction and not press on an ordinance or law for the construction of temple at the disputed site ahead of May, 2019 elections.

The concerns within the Sangh remain on how the Ayodhya discourse will shape up in the future. The Congress has in the last one year pursued an aggressive soft Hindutva in assembly polls. Depending on the outcome of the next general elections, the saffron brotherhood may or may not be in a position to influence developments on an issue which has catapulted both BJP and the RSS from the margins to the mainstream.

With 2019 shaping up to be a presidential style contest between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, the NDA will have to walk a tight rope. The JD(U) and LJP have made their choice, so has Shiv Sena. The ball is in BJP’s court now.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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