We have seen leaders and politicians go to Tirupati and pray; We hae seen them participate in various yatras and consecration ceremonies. We see every year the Maharashtra chief minister do the annual puja at the Pandharpur temple on the occasion of Ashadhi Ekadashi. Devendra Fadnavis did this last year for last five years and it was Uddhav Thackeray’s turn this year.
But never before has the prime minister of the country, a popular leader embraced the devotion and the rituals of the Hindu religion in as comprehensive manner as Modi did today. He was not just a mere bystander but also a willing and eager participant as he sat through the puja, reciting the mantras before launching into another of his famous speeches laced with literary allusions, trade mark wit and a grand narrative that encompassed the healing power, the inherent plularilism and peaceful nature of the Hindu religion.
A decade or so back, something like this would have probably been unimaginable. Not only was the BJP not in power, it was also considered a fading party led by a tired, old leader past his prime. The Ramjanmabhoomi issue was not considered a live issue and few political commentators and leaders thought a temple can even be resolved in BJP’s favour, forget about starting construction.
The fact that all that happened can be attributed to two men, Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah. Their victories, or rather the twin Lok Sabha mandates and numerous state election mandates, especially in the heartland, piloted and organised by them laid the political groundwork for the temple. A demoralised opposition could only sit and watch. A quick judicial resolution was inevitable given the mountain of evidence amassed by the Hindu side and the temple’s journey from a concept on paper to a project on the ground can be attributed to UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s steely determination and will.
There is another reason why Modi deserves to the considered the prime architect behind the Ram temple. And that reason was quite evident in his speech at the function after the puja and the foundation ceremony. The speech, in true Modi style, was a political masterclass. The fact that there was no politics in it was even more extraordinary. No chest-thumping and declarations of `Mission Accomplished’ (though no one could have faulted him for it), no mention of the BJP, the Congress and usual barbs that Modi uses to skewer opposition politicians.
It was a very skillfully crafted speech, made impromptu and wove together different strands of Ramayan thought across the country and the world and the nature of Lord Ram to deliver the message of inclusiveness, personal integrity and growth. It was the speech of a winner without any trace of arrogance or fear. It was the speech of a life-long political worker who feels the pulse of the ordinary man and senses the importance of religious symbolism and devotion in every day lives. It was the speech of a skilled politician who knows how to fuse religious character into a grand narrative of nation-building and inclusiveness. Finally, it was the speech of a popular prime minister who instinctively senses the unifying quality of an epic like Ramayan and the immeasurable value of its teachings.
Modi critics have often harped on his electoral success and popularity. They have tired to beat it down, downplay or dismiss it as ephemeral. They should watch this speech again to know why the reason behind his appeal.
A successful and popular leader is not someone who derides religion and treats religious minded people with contempt. It is one thing to say that hydro-electric dams and power plants are modern day temples, but it takes a different kind of sensibility to understand that these can never replace the deep-rooted devotion and faith that a true religion inspires in ordinary people. More than anyone else, Modi knows the significance of the Ram temple, the deep meaning Lord Ram holds in people’s lives and the powerful nature of the temple movement that swept his party to power. On Wednesday, in presence of the deity at Ayodhya he showed his understanding of the connect very well.
(Views are personal)
Ayodhya Ram Mandir Live Photos: PM Modi lays foundation for Ram temple in Ayodhya
An auspicious day
Barricades, banners, and freshly-painted walls cover Ayodhya, as the big day arrives for the brick-laying ceremony of Ram temple. The bhumi-pujan was attended at Ram Janmabhoomi by about 170 people, including select few politicians as well as Prime Minister Modi.
New look to the city
Force at work
Checks in place