BJP unlikely to benefit from Ram temple in Telangana, Andhra

Hyderabad: Ram Mandir may be a key factor for BJP in north India but the issue is not likely to give it any electoral mileage in Telugu states.

Despite the best efforts by the BJP leadership in both states to cash in on the issue of Pran Pratishtha, the saffron party’s prospects in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections may not get any boost, say political analysts.

The party tried to create hype by organising a live telecast of the January 22 event at Ayodhya and conducting rallies and other programmes at a few pockets, especially in Telangana.

BJP, RSS, VHP and other right-wing organisations held the programmes in certain towns and in a few places this also led to mild tension.

Big difference between North and South

Analysts say that BJP may not get votes in Telugu states because of the Ram temple as there is a big difference between how people in north and south view the entire issue.

Unlike Hindus in other parts of the country, those in the Telugu states don’t find themselves spiritually attached to the temple at Ayodhya.

Most of the Hindus in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana prefer to visit Tirumala temple once or twice every year rather than travelling to Ayodhya.

“There is general aversion among Hindus in the Telugu states to the kind of politics BJP and other Hindutva organisations have played over the issue for the last 3-4 decades,” said political analyst P. Pavan.

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The majority of people see the entire issue of the Ram temple more as a political issue than religious one. They did not like the way Pran Pratishtha was done by a politician instead of a priest.

Telangana BJP pulled all the stops

The Telangana BJP unit along with other outfits went all out to draw mileage from Pran Prathishtha. Some villages and towns had turned saffron as they put off flags, banners and cut-outs and also organised live screenings of the event.

At the live screening in Hyderabad, Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan was invited along with Union Minister and state BJP president G. Kishan Reddy.

The BJP has also arranged special trains for its activists to reach Ayodhya for darshan. Under Sri Ram Mandir Darshan Abhiyan (campaign for darshan of Sri Ram temple), 17 trains would go to Ayodhya beginning January 29 covering the 17 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state.

The trains, known as special ‘astha’ (faith) trains, originate either from Secunderabad or Kazipet.

The first train, covering the Secunderabad Parliamentary constituency represented by Kishan Reddy, would leave Secunderabad station for Ayodhya on January 29 and return to the city on February 2.

Analysts don’t see ground impact

However, analysts believe these attempts may not yield any positive result for the party in terms of seats or votes.

The saffron party may go to voters with the image of Ayodhya by projecting the construction of Ram temple as a major achievement but this may not garner them votes.

They recall that even at the height of the Ramjanbhoomi movement it was not a big issue in Telugu states.

“They can’t ask people to vote on the Ram temple issue. Hindus here ask what the BJP has done for the temple at Bhadrachalam which is linked to Ramayana,” said another analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

Ram temple in 2023 BJP manifesto

In the campaign for recently held Assembly elections in Telangana, the BJP leaders had raised the issue of Ram temple. At the election rallies, Union Home Minister Amit Shah declared that the temple was going to be inaugurated and promised free travel to Ayodhya.

In the election manifesto, the BJP promised that if voted to power, it would introduce free Ram Mandir and Kashi Yatra for senior citizens.

However, political observers say there were not many takers for this promise. If the BJP has increased its tally of Assembly seats and vote share, it was not because of the Ram temple issue.

“There will be no change in the situation in Lok Sabha elections. There may be other factors which may help BJP increase its vote share but it will not be Ram temple,” said Pavan.

In the 2023 Assembly elections, the BJP almost doubled its vote share compared to the 2018 polls. The saffron party significantly improved its tally of seats from one to eight.

The BJP also managed to double its vote share from 6.98% in 2018 to almost 14%. However, compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the vote share of BJP has come down.

This time BJP contested 111 seats and left eight segments for its ally Jana Sena Party (JSP), which drew a blank.

The saffron party had won just a single seat in the 2018 Assembly elections. It had later improved its tally to three after winning two seats in the by-elections.

In 2019, the BJP had polled 19.45% votes and bagged four out of 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana. It had contested alone and this was the highest number of seats won by the party in two decades.

BJP will seek mandate for Modi in LS polls

For 2024, the saffron party has set a target of 10 seats. Like in the previous elections, the BJP will seek a mandate for Modi.

“The BJP’s narrative will be around Modi. They will tell the voters that their vote will not be for an individual MP but for Modi as the Prime Minister for another term,” said Raghavendra Reddy.

BJP appears nowhere on the scene in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh where the political space is occupied by regional players. The saffron party has no MP or MLA in Andhra Pradesh.

The BJP’s vote share in 2019 polls was less than one per cent and the situation has not changed for the party.

The saffron party is still in a dilemma on joining the TDP-JSP alliance to take on the ruling YSRCP.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Siasat staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)