Politics

Why Abusing Ayodhyavasis For BJP’s Defeat In Faizabad Is Careless And Counterproductive, And What ‘Went Wrong’ For BJP

Sumati Mehrishi

Jun 11, 2024, 03:59 PM | Updated 04:05 PM IST

Lallu Singh (extreme right) with PM Modi during latter's roadshow in Ayodhya (X)
Lallu Singh (extreme right) with PM Modi during latter's roadshow in Ayodhya (X)
  • BJP’s efforts lacked in electorally celebrating the once-in-five-centuries opportunity it itself created.
  • Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s recent visit to Ayodhya came as a source of emotional reassurance for sections of Ram bhaktas and BJP supporters. 

    Sarma visited Hanumangarhi Mandir and Ram Mandir. Coming to terms with BJP’s defeat in Faizabad, the Lok Sabha constituency of which Ayodhya is a part, the people of Ayodhya saw Sarma’s visit as sort of a political healer. 

    When Sarma was in Ayodhya, many wondered how the Assam chief minister, known for shaping and supporting the work for the Kamakhya Temple corridor, is managing things without “upsetting the locals.” 

    A BJP worker from Ayodhya told this author: “It would be good to know what was done and perhaps done differently by Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam when it came to compensating people. I wish things were done in the same way in Ayodhya.”  

    BJP’s “failure” to “appropriately” address the issue of compensation to the locals on the account of financial losses they have faced owing to the development work towards Ram Mandir, is being stated as one of the reasons for “local anger.”

    It is, however, just one of the reasons for thought. The BJP worker adds: “Jahan itna paisa kharch ho raha thha, jinko nuksaan hua, unka achche se compensation kar dete. Is par vichar kiya jana chahiye thha (there was so much being spent on developmental works in Ayodhya, more could have been spent on appropriate compensation for people who suffered loss.”  

    Pan-India, the BJP has been able to establish and defend itself as the political protector and facilitator of Ram and Ayodhya. The rude and “shocking” blow of defeat in Faizabad, where Ayodhya is situated, is expected to become a catalyst of change for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. 

    Samajwadi Party has won despite the BJP’s solemn tributes to the Karsevaks. It has been successful in hurting the BJP on caste. Congress is known to have refused invitations to Ram Mandir Pran Pratishtha. But the only party that stands weakened today is the BJP despite being the only party that whole-heartedly supported Ram Mandir — from movement to mandir to manifesto. 

    After the Samajwadi Party trounced the BJP, Ayodhyavasis have been facing angry remarks on social media from bhaktas and BJP supporters from outside Faizabad. BJP is seen as one of the agent provocateurs of the Ram Mandir movement. The heady blend of sadness, anger, shame and guilt of Ayodhyavasis and bhaktas from outside Faizabad is not hard to understand. 

    Abusing the people of Ayodhya for not being able to give the result expected, and not being able to make the BJP win, will be severely counterproductive for the Hindu cause. 

    “How,” you may ask?

    Here is some of the “how.”

    1. Such comments will leave Ayodhyavasis vulnerable to the agendas of those who did not want Ram out of the tent in the first place. Ayodhyavasis are the symbols of civilisational resilience. They have responded to every effort to preserve aastha and Ram’s Ayodhya for centuries and to the call of Thakur Gurudutt Singh, independent India’s first karsevak.

    The Left-media is presenting the BJP’s defeat as Hindus against the builders of Ram Mandir. The nearest — at least geographically — to that tent — were Ayodhyavasis. They stand as the most vulnerable.

    2. References to Ayodhyavasis of the Treta Yug — used for taunting Ayodhyvasis of today as seen on social media last week, were deeply unfortunate. These will serve as appropriated propaganda material aimed at distancing Ayodhyavasis from bhaktas from elsewhere. The sense of shame over a political defeat is already setting in. Faizabad needs a dialogue with the outsider — not a frown and not a tight fist or upper lip.

    3. BJP, at the end of the day, is a political party. Any withdrawal of any kind from the people of Ayodhya, just because their support did not suffice for the BJP's victory, is a deviation from aastha, and a diversion from unity and dharmic preservation. 

    4. Any receding from your own teerth and own space, through any act guided by political cynicism or defeat, will leave the space vulnerable and termite-porous. Number strength works. Claiming space — even better. Even the thought of receding from 'that' space 'five centuries' after it has been freed and preserved is short-sightedness wrought with implications. 

    Those who have tasted political blood would have won a cultural battle if you reject the ghee-soaked, soul-melting, essence of Hanuman Garhi.

    5. Defeating the BJP in Faizabad barely four months after the pran pratishtha ceremony of Ram Mandir is a feat. A political win despite a negative association with Ayodhya — a cultural mission.

    Achieving an angered atmosphere against Ayodhyavasis by politically demoralised bhaktas — a handsome bonus with futuristic potential in a caste-ridden political canvas and a severely ‘localised' Lok Sabha election.

    6. Ayodhya has become the nerve centre of the Sanatani faith. The invisible thread of Hindu unity and aastha — across castes — begins and culminates here. Refusal of anything Ayodhya will not impact Ayodhyavasis alone. The deity at Ram Mandir is in his baalroop

    7. The 2024 Faizabad Lok Sabha election was caste-localised despite the pan-India and global response to Ayodhya. Imagine the political outcome of further intra-Hindu divisions. Remember that Ram Mandir has been a factor in the Hindu vote across Bharat. Faizabad was made to falter to turn the taste of ‘that’ unification sour. 

    Though the need to understand the “how” should not have arisen in the first place, let’s go for it.

    Ram Lalla was living under a tent. Devotees visiting Ayodhya would go back with that image in their minds and hearts. That tent was symbolic of the acceptance of fate and destiny. 

    Media narrative crafted new-found demons out of Ram bhaktas. For decades, the Left parties and other parties not inclined to Ram, Ayodhya, and the Hindu cause, bombarded media and social media with every element that would discourage the Hindu from developing a sense of pride and oneness. 

    Ayodhya, the Mandir for Ram absent, showed signs of civic neglect. While Ayodhyavasis at least had daily access to Hanumangarhi, Dashrath Mahal, Kanak Bhawan and the Gopratar Mandir, among other temples to fall back on, those living outside of Ayodhya, particularly in cities were exposed to a long term, systematic, organised and meticulously curated devious narrative.

    Hindus were subjected to emotional, cultural and electoral gaslighting and made to believe that any disturbance or deviation in India’s loosely held show of unity and peace was a result of their own craving for the Mandir in Ayodhya. 

    Films mocking the deities were scripted, produced, made and shown. 

    In Delhi, the power centre, the word "Ram Temple" was targeted even further with the help of abstract art and metaphysical mumbo-jumbo which was aimed at shaming the very concept of Ram deserving a temple. 

    A narrative was created to convince the urban Hindu that Ram indeed does not need a temple but is good under the open sky because "he is everywhere."

    What went wrong for the BJP

    BJP, the hurt and weakened political force will be targeted until it is weakened further in Lucknow. 

    While the pilgrim from outside Uttar Pradesh may rightly ask, “How can a holy city that receives pilgrims from across India manage without wider lanes, development and roads?” it must be mentioned that like Varanasi, where development was opposed and blamed for “breaking pauranic Kashi'' by a section of locals, development did hurt families in Ayodhya too.

    Ayodhya is clasped in the caste-shackled voting patterns of Faizabad. As vote differences, including that of the Ayodhya Vidhan Sabha segment where BJP managed to barely scrape through, reveal, Faizabad has dominantly tilted to caste politics. 

    Caste before candidate 

    Faizabad’s urge to defeat Lallu Singh, the “straightforward, milansaar, and helpful” man who is known for not encouraging “galat kaam,” defeated the BJP. 

    “He is old. He is honest, but the voter doesn’t care about honesty. On top of that, he has made callous comments that border arrogance or were plain arrogant. In addition to that, the domination of one caste in state and local politics worked against him.” 

    Lallu Singh has not been available for comments since 4 June. His comments on caste issues in Faizabad can be read here.  

    The caste-ridden cocktail of deserting “Jo Ram ko laaye hain” demolished the nascent watermark of Hindu pride. Even the Left media outlets gloating over BJP’s defeat in Ayodhya know that the cause of happiness in BJP’s failure is the party’s deeper failure to read and tackle “caste” politics and dynamics.

    A party worker from Lallu Singh's team not wanting to be named said: "Lallu Singh ji had sensed that caste-consolidation was working against him. He boldly told supporters that if they did not want to vote for him because of their caste or his, they must just vote for the BJP's symbol and the common cause. Even that did not work." 

    According to him, what damaged Singh were local issues that should have been taken care of by MLAs. "He is not the one to run away from problems faced by people or problems hindering work or a common cause. So, he got sucked into some developmental issues that should have been addressed by the MLAs." 

    The question mark on ‘unity’

    While the outsider’s attention is centered on Ayodhya as an emotion, BJP workers have pointed to the worrying lack of organisational unity in the other four vidhan sabha segments. 

    A BJP worker said, “The biggest organisational issue within the BJP in Ayodhya is the dominance of one caste at the village level. One such example is the Pura block. You will find people of just one caste dominating every position. Neither the Dalits nor the Brahmins get any importance in positions that matter in the rural areas or the district as a whole.”

    The BSP factor weakened in 2024 and the SP won the trust of Dalits. SP candidate being from the Pasi samaj was another positive for SP. According to workers of the BJP, the party, too, lost some of its Dalit share of votes. “Among voters, vyaparis on the other hand never speak against the BJP, but this time, they had a lukewarm response to the party.”  

    While voters are being blamed for being complacent, the BJP seems to have erred hugely in its booth management and panna-centric management. 

    On the day of voting when workers who contributed to the campaign reached the booth, BJP workers noticed that things were not going fine. The realisation came — but at the booth — while voting was underway. 

    A woman worker of the BJP said, "Slips were missing, many voters did not receive them. Seven members of my own family could not vote because of this reason. The story was speaking itself on each panna." She adds, "There was misjudgement on the part of the team and it has to be admitted.  Misjudgement comes from complacency and there is no excuse for it. On voting day, we took responsibility for ferrying women to the booth because of the heat. Something tells me that there was a huge difference in the words and actions of both the workers and voters.”

    The candidate–MLA harmony seems to be amiss. “In Milkipur, Baba Gorakhnath, a former MLA who previously fought against SP Lok Sabha winner Awadesh Prasad in the vidhan sabha, was known to not get the support of Lallu Singh. Voters store these memories as perceptions. In Ayodhya, BJP managed to gain and win, but these perceptions on Lallu Singh played out at three Vidhan Sabhas out of four. His video that went viral did not help either.”

    The INDI alliance was able to make good use of BJP’s weak areas — where a blend of emotion against Lallu Singh, caste and BJP’s callous approach to countering Samajwadi Party speeches, provided BJP’s rivals with dominance on an untaken space and control. 

    Awadhesh Prasad not only pulled the Dalit and Kurmi vote from across Ayodhya, but he also reversed the story for Lallu Singh in four assemblies that include the rural parts of Faizabad. 

    With an exception to the Ayodhya Vidhan Sabha segment, the BJP has suffered defeat in all the other four. Milkpur was bound to be a disaster owing to Prasad's dominance and presence, but in Rudauli (has a BJP MLA), Bikapur (has a BJP MLA), and Dariyabad (has a BJP MLA), too, the Samajwadi Party was able to trounce the BJP. 

    A worker who did not wish to be named said, "Only in Dariyabad did Singh receive support from the local MLA." 

    Compensation and acquisition

    In November when this author visited Ayodhya, shopkeepers around the mandir parisar, ahead of Hanumangarhi Mandir on either side, gave accounts of how the expansion of roads caused them inconvenience but mentioned that they were hugely satisfied with the work and results and the compensation was working fine. 

    Back in November — two months before the Pran Pratishtha ceremony, they mentioned how hard Yogi Adityanath had worked on the communication that needed to apprise them of the change, the need and the outcomes of the change. The emotion for the Modi-Yogi team was high. The excitement about shutters up of the newly renovated shops was as huge as shutters down in the evening because local shopkeepers would proudly flaunt motifs painted on each shutter. 

    Each and every person this author spoke to in Ayodhya ecstatically explained the picture “before” and the picture “after” development. 

    A local leader told this author that when people of villages approached Lallu Singh with concerns about the several rumours floating regarding acquisition of rural land for the aero city, his responses were “arrogant.” “Insecurities of people on this matter increased around election day. There was none to stop the rumours and none to hear the concerns in the appropriate manner.”

    Before Pran Partishtha the only bhava being expressed was over "Ram coming back to Ayodhya" and the appreciation of Modi and Yogi for making the "return of Ram". 

    The Pran Pratishtha ceremony of Ram Mandir meant a bolting transformation in the daily earnings of the locals. Shopkeepers, hawkers, e-rikshaw drivers, and hotel owners have seen their incomes increase by at least three to six times as per several accounts.

    Electoral and political scenarios in Kashi and Ayodhya have their own similarities and differences. “People did have very tough times on a day-to-day basis while the development work was on. But now everyone is happy” — was a uniform reaction even during the campaign days before the poll. 

    Lallu Singh’s rejection and collective complacency on compensation and expected sensitivity regarding better compensation allowed a silent vote against the BJP to set in. 

    The call for change of guard

    While the Modi-Yogi team was busy in creating, building, reshaping, rejuvenating, celebrating, and setting the furrows of order and discipline to make Ram's Ayodhya ready for the pilgrim of Bharat and the globe, the BJP, it seems, failed to convert the transformation into a repeated acceptance of a sitting MP under its own tent. 

    According to a worker, "Younger leaders wanted Singh to make way for them as candidates. Several local workers belonging to forward and lower castes were miffed by changes after the change in local leadership. They were working for the campaign, alright, but one is not sure what they responded to once they were inside the booth.” 

    A member of the Suryavanshi Kshatriya clan told this author that one of the most striking events was the burning of crackers on 4 June in villages where people had made huge earnings due to the development surrounding Ram Mandir and the building of Ram Mandir.

    He says, "Kuchh gaanvon mein aisa khushi ka mahaul thha 4 June ko. Deepawali mein aasmaan wale pataake chhoot-te hain, waise pathake chhode gaye. Lallu Singh is hugely respected in Faizabad, but many people have issues with his honesty. Voh galat kaam nahin hone dete. Aur jahan galat kaam hota hai, wahan uska be-jijhak virodh karte hain." 

    Add to caste consolidation the dislike for Singh's honesty and straightforward-even-though-gentle-attitude.  

    Some people of Ayodhya are not happy with the discipline and order with which the local administration conducts traffic and certain rules during visits of VVIPs. This aspect came across as an irritant.

    BJP’s efforts lacked in electorally celebrating the once-in-five-centuries opportunity it itself created. The BJP perhaps forgot that emotion for and emotion against — both can make or break an election. 

    A BJP worker sums it up, “To win against toxic caste politics, the candidate has to do more for the other caste than his own. This is the only way for the BJP to come back on track in Ayodhya and Uttar Pradesh.”  


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