Temple Politics only BJP's Agenda, not NDA's, says LJP's Chirag Paswan

Paswan, underlining that the BJP should continue to focus in the plank of development, said the LJP is in favour of waiting till the court comes out with its verdict on the Ram temple issue.

New Delhi: Over the past few days since its recent turn in electoral fortunes, several allies of the BJP within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have criticised the party at power in the centre for playing temple politics instead of sticking to its plank of development.

In an interview with the Indian Express, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan underlined that the Ram temple “can be the agenda of one party but not of the NDA or government”.

“We have clearly said in the NDA meeting on December 10 that we should stick to our development agenda. Some people raising issues like the Ram temple and Bajrangbali (UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath had called Lord Hanuman a Dalit) only confuses people. The temple can be the agenda of one party but not of the NDA or government. Let us wait for the court’s order on it,” the MP from Jamui told the Indian Express.

Instead, Paswan made an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep his focus on issues that matter – the youth and farmers.

“It is the youth who played a big role in making Narendra Modi the PM in 2014… there has been some resentment among farmers. Though our government has done some good work for farmers, we have to review the issues of farmers,” he told the Indian Express.

Also read: As BJP Loses Political Ground, the Battle for 2019 Is Becoming More Interesting

To a question on the possibility of the Modi government bringing in an ordinance to facilitate the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, Chirag Paswan said, “If such an ordinance is brought, the LJP will think over it and come out with its stand. As of now, the party is in favour of waiting till the court comes out with its verdict on the issue.”

He said the LJP has never raised any unreasonable demand from the BJP. “We have been a responsible alliance partner and are fully committed to ensuring the prime minister’s return to power. We want the NDA to perform better than it did in 2014,” the LJP leader said.

On December 14, Paswan had told reporters that the poll results in five states were not a sign of the Modi wave waning but the people wanted development from the NDA and they were disappointed when discourses about the Ram temple took centre stage.

“I would not speak in terms of lessons as such. But certainly, development has been the motto of the BJP as also the larger NDA coalition. When issues like Ram temple and Hanuman start dominating the discourse, it leads to doubts and disappointment among the voters,” he had said.

The BJP has repeated time and again that the construction of Ram temple is not a political issue for it but a matter of faith.

The BJP has repeatedly promised to build a Ram mandir on the Babri masjid plot if elected to power in UP. Credit: PTI

The BJP had repeatedly promised to build a Ram mandir on the Babri masjid plot if elected to power in UP. Credit: PTI

Paswan’s comments come just days after the BJP was defeated in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The assembly elections were billed as “semifinals” to the 2019 Lok Sabha election by political observers, who speculate the saffron party might rake up the Ram temple issue ahead of the general election as election results have thrown open the race for 2019.

Similar sentiments have been vocalised by other NDA partners too.

Last week, talking about why he does not see any reason for alarm in the BJP after the saffron party suffered setbacks in three Hindi heartland states, JD(U) leader Prashant Kishor had said he believes the BJP won that election without resorting to the Ram temple issue and should stick to the development agenda to win the general election next year.

With the exit of Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), the NDA in Bihar is now left with the LJP and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U).

Speculation is rife that following the BJP’s recent defeat in polls, the remaining two NDA constituents in Bihar may flex their muscles.

Also read: Forget Development, BJP Will Fight the 2019 Elections on Faith

In fact, after it became clear the BJP had lost Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, long-time ally Shiv Sena congratulated voters from the three states for their “brave decision” to boot the BJP out of power.

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said the voters in these states have given a new direction to the country. “Rather than getting into frivolous things like who is the alternative, voters of these states have shown the courage. I congratulate their courage,” he said.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray also hit out at the BJP. “The results in five states are a slap in the face for the oppressive government,” he said, praising Congress president Rahul Gandhi for “putting up a single handed fight”.

The MNS leader said the people of Gujarat showed the way during the Gujarat assembly elections. “I especially congratulate the people of Gujarat. Voters of Gujarat started the trend to reject [PM] Modi and Amit Shah and showed the duo its place,” he said.

The party mouthpiece Saamana also published a scathing attack on the BJP.

“The results clearly show that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (BJP president) Amit Shah’s dream of making the country Congress-mukt has gone to the dust in BJP’s own regime. People of these states have indicated at a ‘BJP-mukt’ regime.”

The Sena also hit out at the government’s decision of demonetisation, dubbing it as a “farce” which “ruined the country’s economy”.

“People lost their jobs, inflation increased. At that time, our prime minister was playing world politics and kept on flying. He directly landed for campaigning in four states. His childish talks were filled with issues of faith. This turned against him.”

(With inputs from PTI)