OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

The CNN-IBN’s latest pet theme for media manufactured activism is the Liberhan Commission’s findings on the Babri Masjid demolition. Neither has the Liberhan Commission gone public with its findings nor has any new evidence surfaced of a conspiracy to demolish the mosque but the CNN-IBN as usual has tinged its reportage to reflect its own prejudices and biases. This becomes clearly evident in the way its lead story is headlined “Advani to get off lightly”.

However Offstumped feels CNN-IBN’s activism nevertheless maybe a blessing in disguise for the BJP for it presents an opportunity to set the direction of the national political discourse.

To appreciate this better first some context on the current state of the BJP.

The Indian Express today in its editorial painted a rather bleak picture of the state of affairs within the BJP in the context of the so called Advani flip-flop on the Indo-US Nuclear deal. The Express while touching a relevant note perhaps got too carried away by its own convictions on the importance of the deal. The reality of the deal however as Offstumped had pointed out earlier is that not a single seat will be won by the Congress for successfully negotiating it and not a single seat will be lost by the BJP for its flip-flop. The irony of the heated debate that has gripped the nation for the last several weeks is its grand irrelevance to the average voter. The Prime Minister has belatedly tried to make it a political issue by bringing in the Nuclear Power angle but its too little too late for anyone to pay attention or appreciate with the exception of the informed blogger and the enlightened op-ed columnist. However the Express has a point on how the BJP is adrift.

As Offstumped had pointed out earlier its initial political position on the Indo-US Nuclear deal made perfect political sense as it gave it an opportunity to highlight the unnatural marriage of convenience between the UPA and the Left as well as expose the wedge that had been lurking in the background all along. The subsequent refinement in its position as expounded by Mr. Advani in his interview to the BJP was exactly what Offstumped had called for when it pointed out that the wedge had outlived its usefulness and it was time for the BJP to break itself from the Left’s Agenda and chart its own course. This was a logical next move in terms of political strategy because the Congress controls the timing of the next election and the Left with its position on the Nuclear Deal was controlling the debate. Thus it was imperative for the BJP to chart a different course and hence Mr. Advani’s refinement made perfect political sense.

But yesterday’s convoluted clarification by the BJP to reiterate the Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie position while trying to rationalize the Advani refinement is puzzling. Especially on an issue with very little electoral consequence it is strange the BJP is going to great lengths to clamor for a JPC and a Constitutional Amendment when it knows there is a slim chance of either demand being entertained in Parliament and a rather dim prospect of evoking any moral public outrage outside it.

This is no time for senile attempts at preserving someone’s legacy at the expense of political strategy. It is time for the BJP to draw a sharp distinction from the rest of the political pack and make the next the election about itself and the rest. And hence the CNN-IBN’s activism on the Babri Masjid is a perfect opportunity and here is why.

The Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid issue continues to be at the heart of the fault line dividing Indian Politics. It would be irresponsible of the current political generation to bury the issue for another generation to deal with. What kind of legacy would the current generation bequeath to the youth of this nation if they have to face the ghosts of Babri Masjid 50 years from now with no perspective on the contemporary issues and the political environment that resulted in its demolition. It would be unfortunate if this issue is allowed to fester for another half century leaving behind hate and mistrust with none of the background.

Hence it calls for extraordinary leadership and courage to confront the issue and resolve it while the chief protagonists in the generation that made it a political issue are still around. If there is anyone party that can resolve this issue it is the BJP. The Congress will never risk its twin vote banks by taking a position on the issue and try to bring closure. The Communists are irrelevant to the politics  underlying the issue. The regional parties lack the foresight and credibility to bring the two communities together on this issue. It is only the BJP that can make a serious attempt at bringing closure. Mr. Advani as the chief protagonist is uniquely positioned to do this and by doing so he can legitimately lay claim to the agenda for the next election.

Here is a possible way forward to bring closure to this issue. There has been a move in recent months from Tirupathi to Sabarimala to Gurvayoor to resist political interference and Government control of Hindu Religious Institutions. In fact attempts by the LDF in Kerala to legislate control have raised a storm. It is in this context that a move towards freeing Religious Institutions from Government Control  and reverting the ownership of these institutions to the local communities makes eminent sense.  Through such a movement a possible approach for closure on the Ayodhya issue could be found by relying on the wisdom of the local community which stands to immensely benefit economically by appropriately developing Ayodhya as a favored religious destination for the rest of the nation.

Offstumped Bottomline: The BJP is at a crossroads and it requires bold imagination to break free from the ideological rut it is currently  trapped in. Mr. Advani as the chief protagonist of the Ayodhya issue should seize the opportunity to bring closure to this issue. A movement to free religious institutions of government control and empowering local communities to directly reap the economic benefits of religious-tourism could provide a way forward to resolve this issue as a win-win for both communities.


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