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Modi’s mandir can’t capture base


Source: Britannica


Source: Hindustan Times


The Hindu

Wikimedia Commons

Despite fulfilling a decades old party promise, India’s new Hindu temple  fell short on delivering votes.

Where is the temple?

The town of Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh. 
Ayodhya is considered a sacred site in Hinduism and considered the birthplace of Lord Ram1

When did the temple site become a flashpoint?

The location was originally home to a 16th century mosque, the Babri Masjid. The mosque was destroyed by Hindu nationalists in the early 1990s as it stood on a site that was associated with being the historical birthplace of Lord Ram1

A site important to both Hindus and Muslims, it has been at the heart of multiple legal crises and communal riots until a Supreme Court decision in 2019 handed the site exclusively to Hindus1.

What was the redevelopment plan?

For over 30 years, building a temple to Ram had been a key campaign promise until Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in October 2023 that it would be inaugurated in January, at the start of the election year. 

Aside from the temple, a new airport was built for the city along with other upgrades to the urban realm. These all form part of the BJP’s goal to make Ayodhya a smart city under the “Vision Plan for Ayodhya 2047”. The city is being modelled as a hub for spiritual tourism with a predicted local to tourist ratio of 1:102.

Who won?

The temple is within the constituency of Faizabad and was won by the Samajwadi Party (Socialist Party). The SP is a part of the opposition alliance and is based primarily in the state of Uttar Pradesh3.

Why did support not materialise?

While a new Hindu site of pilgrimage makes for a catchy headline, local voters were in desperate need of campaign promises that went beyond religion and identity. 

Amidst the development, many locals had their houses and local infrastructure demolished in order to make way for the new developments. Such locals have been left in limbo without proper compensation and displaced individuals are still to receive legal rights over new land allotments3

A lack of suitable development and legacy strategies combined with an over reliance on sectarian divides has led to a wide scale rejection of the BJP manifesto within Ayodhya and the Faizabad constituency. 

How does Modi move forward?

Despite making himself the sole focus of the campaign, Modi will now have to rely on coalition partners within the NDA (National Democratic Alliance). The BJP’s audacious prediction to surpass 400 seats in a house of 543 representatives has ended in a total of only 240, well short of the 272 needed to form an outright majority. Modi will now have to rely on a coalition and temper his strongman persona into one more reflective of the variety of voices that placed him in power. 

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