RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s Vijayadashami Day speech, which called upon the government to clear the path for the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya “through appropriate and requisite law’’, presented no surprise. It should disabuse anyone of the notion that the organisation has changed its character and softened its position on issues and causes its has always propounded. Bhagwat had created an impression, through his talks in Delhi last month, that the RSS was shedding its hard Hindutva image and was becoming more responsive to, and accommodating of, other views. He had sworn by the Constitution, which he said represented a national consensus, and had projected the image of an organisation which was inclusive and tolerant. But the call for an enabling law for the construction the temple and the reasons given for it show that the organisation is the same that it was, perhaps more sure-footed and demanding than it was earlier.
The demand for a law for temple construction would mean that the RSS does not attach much importance to the title suit on Ayodhya which the Supreme Court will take up this month. The RSS may not be expecting an early verdict, may be looking for a way to make the verdict irrelevant, or perhaps preparing the ground to neutralise a verdict which it would consider adverse. In any case, the proposal for a law on Ayodhya is an expression of distrust in the Supreme Court and in the rule of law, and in the Constitution to which Bhagwat had sworn his allegiance only last month. He has said that Ram is a “personification of national energy” and a temple is “a matter of national interest’’ and necessary for “self-esteem’’. These ideas do not agree with the values of the Constitution, and, in fact, go against them. He has even issued a warning against testing “the patience of the society’’ on the construction of the temple.
With his demand, Bhagwat may be making it clear that the RSS will not accept an adverse verdict from the court. However, if the government accepts his demand it would be going against the principles of the Constitution that it is sworn to. It has a difficult election to face next year, and Bhagwat also mentions the importance of the coming elections. It is not possible for the government to legislate on temple construction before the election. If it is tempted to bring in an ordinance for that, the consequences will be serious. It will be a very divisive and polarising act and will deal a blow to the constitutional scheme. The government should make its position clear on Bhagwat’s proposal.