In his first remarks after taking oath as CM of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath read out the motto of the new BJP government – sabka saath, sabka vikas - or inclusive development and a corruption and crime-free state.
This was in sync with PM Narendra Modi’s tweets earlier, in which he repeated what he had said a few days ago, that in a democracy a government is formed by majority but run on all-round consensus.
A day earlier, announcing Yogi as the CM-designate, central minister Venkaiah Naidu had reiterated that the UP government’s focus is only vikas! vikas! vikas! Conspicuous by their absence were campaign keywords like Ram, slaughterhouses and kabristaan.
This overdrive to re-brand Yogi, a polarising and pre-eminent Hindu Hriday Samrat (king of hearts of Hindus), as a development-bhakt gives away the BJP’s anxiety.
Cut to Yogi’s statement during the election campaign on March 4. He said he would like the Supreme Court to deliver its verdict on who owns the land at the disputed site of Ramajanambhoomi-Babri Masjid, but if there is judicial delay - and this is reflective of his stand as well as the thinking in the Sangh Parivar - “we would explore other options to build the temple in deference to widespread feelings of the people”.
The feelings of the people are divided on the temple issue. It is no longer the election-cry of even the BJP which, in the 1990s, rose to national prominence on the temple promise.
But this might change because, though relegated to the last section of the party's manifesto for UP, the Ram Mandir is very much part of their unfinished agenda.
Also, Yogi Adityanath, a mass leader who has kept the BJP flag flying in eastern Uttar Pradesh in the last two decades, attracts a huge burden of expectations from within the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. In addition to that is the genuine demand of the people of Ayodhya-Faizabad for the resolution of the dispute so that they can reap the benefits of India’s economic development which have so far eluded them.
But as we shall see, the dispute can only be resolved by the Supreme Court as the matter is sub-judice.
Why do many believe Yogi as CM means the Ram Mandir will be built soon?
As an ascetic of the Kanphata yogis (pierced ears) or the Nath tradition of Gorakshapeeth, Gorakhpur, Adityanath’s association with the dispute in Ayodhya is not just individual, it’s institutional.
His own guru Avaidyanath, who died in 2014, was an important leader of the Ramajanambhoomi movement. He was also a four-term MP from Gorakhpur, first as an independent, then on the Hindu Mahasabha ticket and finally as a BJP candidate in 1991 and 1996.
But it was Yogi’s guru’s guru, Digvijainath, who laid the foundation of this Shaiva monastery’s involvement in the right-wing politics of the country. Digvijainath was also part of the conspiracy of placement of idols in the Babri Masjid in the intervening night of December 22-23, according to the conclusions and inferences drawn by journalists Dhirendra Jha and Krishna Jha in their book Ayodhya: A Dark Night.
In his youth, Digvijainath was a suit-wearing, tennis-playing man, quite unlike the ochre-robe clad CM Adityanath. But this is where the differences between them end.
Digvijainath, though extremely influential in the right-wing Hindu politics of his time, never acquired national prominence. After becoming president of the Hindu Mahasabha in the pre-1950 United Provinces, he had to lie low after his name was embroiled in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
Against this historical backdrop, Yogi Adityanath’s rise to the CM’s post should be seen as only enhancing the saffron-lustre of Gorakshapeeth. In the 16 Lok Sabha elections till date, Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat has been held ten times by a mahant of the Gorakshapeeth.
PM Modi had recently said the unprecedented mandate to the BJP in Uttar Pradesh is the result of the hard work of five generations of BJP leaders. With Yogi as CM, one can see in his smile the culmination of the efforts of three generations of mahants of the Gorakhpur temple.
But the long-association with the dispute in Ayodhya, which is only a two-hour drive from Yogi’s citadel, and his reputation as a hardliner may not be enough to clear the way for the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site.
And the BJP too has officially committed to the resolution of the dispute within the framework of the Supreme Court and Constitution.
Can the temple be built through legislation?
Although a large section of people have been led to believe by the BJP and Sangh Parivar that this is possible through a central legislation which will supersede the judicial process, it is actually not possible. The Ayodhya Act, 1993, read together with the rulings of the Supreme Court clearly states that no legislative action that violates a binding judicial order is permissible under the Constitution.
|Out of the total 14 appeals against the HC verdict, more than five involve dispute among the Hindu parties.|
That perhaps explains the BJP’s reluctance in tabling such a Bill at least in the Lok Sabha where it has brute majority. Because it’s not in the domain of a central or state government to challenge a binding judicial pronouncement.
Can a temple be built through an out-of-court or court-led compromise?
For ordinary cases, an out-of-court settlement is the preferred option when the two parties come to agreement on certain fundamentals about a dispute. If there are multiple parties on both sides, then first, the parties on each side have to come to a consensus and only then can a compromise be found.
Exactly this is a hidden aspect of the Ramajanambhoomi-Babri Masjid case. There are many parties on both sides, and it is the Hindu litigants who are not in agreement.
The Allahabad High Court’s 201 verdict dividing the disputed land between the Sunni Waqf Board, the deity Shri Ram Lalla Viraajman and the Nirmohi Akhara has been challenged by both Hindu and Muslim parties.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its supporters often declare in public that it is the Muslim parties in the case who are not allowing the construction of the temple. However, they omit to mention that out of the five appeals against the land being given to Shri Ram Lalla Viraajman (the deity), three have been filed by Hindu organisations or individuals.
The remaining two are by the Sunni Waqf Board and the now deceased Mohd Hashim Ansari. Out of the total 14 appeals against the HC verdict, more than five involve dispute among the Hindu parties. Therefore in short, first the Hindu parties have to resolve their own disputes, and only then can an out-of-court settlement be even considered by the Supreme Court.
Only the Supreme Court can resolve the dispute
The latest attempt to find an out-of-court settlement was made in 2016 by former Allahabad High Court judge Palok Basu and the Ayodhya-Faizabad Citizens Committee. But the proposals themselves became the cause for dispute when both the VHP-aligned Mahant Nritya Gopal Das and the Sunni Waqf Board representatives came out against it.
Nritya Gopal Das thinks the efforts for a compromise are “interfering with the judicial process”. But he does believe the temple will be built in Modi's regime.
And, as one of the nominees of a litigant in the case, Khaliq Khan, told me: “All we want is to let the Supreme Court decide. Under the Ayodhya Acquisition Act, 1993, the party that loses will also get a place of worship in the acquired area of 67.7 acres along with a hospital, a library and a public amenities complex.”
For once the opponents are in agreement, they both want the Supreme Court to decide the case. Therefore, building the Ram temple is not going to be a simple matter that can be settled by the BJP governments at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh.
However, as we have seen before in Indian democracy, rule of law can be subjugated to that amorphous idea called "public sentiment". Here it is worth remembering that Yogi himself values public opinion more than facts.
Thus, whether Ram temple will be built and when is a matter of speculation - but with Yogi as CM of a BJP government with a massive majority, the clamour for the temple is only going to increase.