Why BJP Lost In Ayodhya Despite Ram Janmabhoomi Temple

Swati Goel Sharma

Jun 04, 2024, 08:10 PM | Updated Jun 10, 2024, 12:52 AM IST

Inauguration day of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. (VHP/X)
Inauguration day of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. (VHP/X)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s defeat in the Faizabad seat in Uttar Pradesh has stumped many, given the recent ‘pran prathishtha’ and opening of the grand Ram Janmabhoomi temple in its Ayodhya city.

BJP candidate Lallu Singh's loss to Samajwadi Party’s Awadhesh Prasad, despite Singh’s back-to-back victories from the same Lok Sabha constituency in the last two general elections, signifies a significant shift in local political dynamics.

Awadhesh Prasad, who got 554,289 votes, defeated Singh by over 54,000 votes.

Data shows that the biggest drop in number of votes for Singh, when compared with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, was witnessed in Ayodhya and Bikapur assembly constituency.

The Faizabad parliamentary constituency is made up of five assembly segments, namely Ayodhya, Bikapur, Milkipur, Rudauli and Dariyabad. While in the 2019 elections, Singh got 115,088 votes from Ayodhya, he got 104,671 votes in the recent polls.

As per local experts, several factors have contributed to the unexpected electoral outcome.

One major misstep by Lallu Singh was his controversial remark that the BJP needed two-third majority to be able to “make changes in the Constitution”. He reportedly made the remark on 13 April at a chaupal in Ayodhya’s Milkipur, from where he has been five-time MLA.

The opposition quickly latched on to the controversy, alleging that the BJP aimed to alter reservations for members of the scheduled and backward castes.

SP national president Akhilesh Yadav accused the BJP of having a “hidden agenda to end reservations provided to backward classes, Dalits, and minorities”.

This rhetoric seems to have resonated strongly with those who feared the erosion of reservation benefits.

The SP strategically fielded Awadhesh Prasad, a member of the Pasi community, which bolstered the party’s appeal among Dalits. Prasad’s campaign slogan was — “In Ayodhya, no Mathura, no Kashi; only Awadhesh Pasi.”

Local resentment against some administrative decisions regarding the Ram temple also seems to have played a crucial role.

Road-widening work in the city led to the demolition or displacement of over 4,000 shops along several routes leading to the temple. As per a BJP worker from Ayodhya, residents complain that compensation and rehabilitation promises fell short, leaving many shop owners feeling betrayed.

One of such residents is a photographer this publication spoke to. He said that he ran a shop near the makeshift temple that existed on the disputed site before bhoomi pujan of the new temple in 2020. His shop was demolished for road widening, but he was paid a mere Rs 1 lakh for it. He waited for several months to be allotted a new shop as promised. But when the time came, he was told to pay up Rs 20 lakh to run it.

“They allotted me a shop in a shopping complex they have built. But asked for Rs 20 lakh to use it. I did not have that kind of money,” he said. “I simply lost my livelihood.”

He accuses the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra for it and blames, by extension, the BJP. He says his sentiment is shared by all those who lost their businesses and “collectively decided to vote against the BJP”.

Furthermore, the hurried inauguration of the temple, believed to be timed to coincide with the election campaign, led to significant mismanagement, an Ayodhya-based journalist told this publication.

As per him, residents have been facing numerous inconveniences, such as discontinued private vehicular movement on several routes and the need to walk considerable distances to board state-run buses due to barricaded routes.

He further said that while the influx of pilgrims was expected to boost local economy, the anticipated economic benefits failed to materialise for small business owners.

“It is only the big players and outsiders opening businesses in Ayodhya who are benefitting or stand to benefit,” he said.

Another journalist, who did not wish to be named, said the BJP cadre in Ayodhya felt let down when prime minister Narendra Modi, during his campaigning in the area, “repeatedly lauded Iqbal Ansari while ignoring all those who made sacrifices for the temple”. Ansari was key litigant in the Babri mosque-Ram Janmabhoomi legal dispute from the Muslim side, having inherited the suit from his father, Mohammed Haji Hashim Ansari.

Iqbal Ansari publicly accepted the Supreme Court verdict allocating the dispute land to the Hindu petitioners in 2019.

“While Ayodhyawasis respect the Ansari family, people who made real sacrifices for the temple, such as karsewaks, were ignored in the speeches,” the journalist said. The gesture triggered anger among the BJP cadre, he said.

In conclusion, the BJP's loss in Ayodhya can be attributed to a combination of insensitive development practices, controversial political rhetoric, and failure to address local grievances.

Although the temple's construction fulfilled a long-standing desire and brought a sense of pride, for many locals, it has become a symbol of their displacement and marginalisation.

This election result serves as a stark reminder that while symbolic gestures may resonate nationally, local issues and sentiments ultimately drive electoral outcomes.

Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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