The Times of India headline on Monday morning is both amusing and ironical. “BJP silent, but mantris raise pitch on mandir,” it reads. The report then goes on to quote union ministers Uma Bharti, Giriraj Singh and PP Choudhary, besides Sushil Modi and Keshav Maurya, the deputy chief minister of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh respectively, holding out veiled threats of unrest, violence and agitation in case construction of a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya does not start soon (read: before the state and general election). But BJP, if the headline is taken at face value, is silent. How can BJP be silent when its ministers are talking rubbish?
Yes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to utter a word on the Ram Temple. But then the PM has been silent on most pressing issues. Indeed, Narendra Modi has not even visited Ayodhya even once during the last four and a half years and this year on Diwali he apparently plans to be at Kedarnath ! And since the BJP is now almost synonymous with the Prime Minister, TOI can possibly be given the benefit of doubt when it says BJP is ‘silent’ on the Ram temple.
It would actually be better for the BJP Government to keep quiet. While the Sangh Parivar undoubtedly believes its cynical campaign for the temple is a feather in its cap, BJP and its leaders continue to be tried in a CBI court for the ‘crime’ of engineering the demolition of the 500-year old Babri Masjid. The then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, who had given a solemn undertaking to the Supreme Court that the mosque would be protected, went back on his word. It was a national shame and December 6, 1992, the ‘saddest day’ if LK Advani is to be taken at face value, remains a blot on governance.
BJP leaders know very well that the sundry Hindu petitioners claiming the title to the ‘disputed land’, which for five centuries was in the possession of the Sunni Waqf Board, have a weak case. The Supreme Court had in 1994 categorically refused to go into the title and had turned down a Presidential reference. But the Allahabad High Court in 2010 by a majority verdict split the land among three claimants on the basis of myths, faith and disputed archaeological evidence.
The Supreme Court of India simply cannot afford to compromise on legal principles and uphold the Allahabad High Court’s abominable order in a hurry. Because it would then have international repercussions and would fail to pass muster the principles of justice and principles on which civil titles are decided. But BJP leaders seem to have little patience for legal niceties or constitutional propriety. That is the reason why some of them have been talking aloud of ‘Ordinances’ and ‘Legislations’ to settle a title which is sub judice and is pending before the highest court of the land.
A presidential ordinance or a central legislation to build a temple will not only be unconstitutional but also a perversion of democratic governance. Elected governments are not substitutes to the old Zamindars and Mansabdars when the lords and masters could do what they wished. In a secular and democratic polity, Governments cannot act roughshod over populist and majoritarian priorities.
The Prime Minister is possibly ‘silent’ because his office appreciates the minefield that it is walking on. But for sundry ministers and so-called seers, it is easier to make outrageous and irresponsible statements. It is even more easy for a mindless media to highlight such regressive and diversionary statements.
The assembly of so-called ‘saints’ and at least some sinners at Delhi’s Talkatora stadium over the weekend did not confine itself to demanding the construction of a Ram Temple. It betrayed its real purpose by giving a call to ‘Hindus’ to vote for BJP and bring back the Modi Government in the next general election. It was necessary for Hindus to unite and vote for the BJP, said the ‘sick’ saints, in order to protect Hindu lives, culture, language (Sanskrit) and the honour of Hindu women.
A similar call by the Pope or a Muslim cleric would have invited derision. And there is no reason to dignify this assembly of the intellectually and the spiritually challenged with an analysis. It shows the Sangh Parivar’s utter despair at the political undercurrents and its desperation to salvage what by all accounts is looking like a sinking ship.
The Ram Temple does look like the last refuge of the politically bankrupt.