The Trust’s decisions are taken by members who had passed PM Modi’s test for efficiency, have the confidence of home minister Amit Shah, apart from guiding the architects of the Sompura family, known to have built temples in record time. These are people who manage all legal and administrative nuances of temple construction with precision.
While PM Modi’s trusted bureaucrat Nripendra Misra is believed to have coordinated the whole programme, Ayodhya DM Anuj Kumar Jha and UP bureaucrats were given the responsibility of ensuring that there was no disruption. Misra is learnt to have worked with engineers from L&T on the site to get it ready for the ceremony.
On Wednesday, when PM Modi laid the foundation, the galaxy of stars who had pivoted the Ayodhya temple movement in the eighties and nineties were missing. But there were new ones and the spirit was just as high, but bereft of aggression.
Under the bureaucracy-driven, administratively strong system put in place, the Sangh Parivar took extra care to see that there were no acts of aggression or voices of provocation.
According to a Trust member, although members of the trust were asked to bring down the guest list to 175 from 300, the local seers of Hanumangrahi in Ayodhya, who have often dissented with the movement, were made part of the guest list to ensure that there was no ill-feeling.
The visitors included Parmarth Niketan’s Swami Chidanand Saraswati, Avdheshanand Giri Mahamandleshwar of the Juna Akhara and Sadhvi Rithambhara, a Sangh supporter who was among the most active leaders of the temple movement. Rithambhara who runs a shelter home near Mathura is well-regarded by the RSS. In a recent event on motherhood organized by an RSS affiliate, she was called as a star speaker.
Saraswati and Giri had helped the government in reaching out to the Muslim clergy after the Ayodhya verdict. Among the invitees were seers from Chinmaya mission and Swaminarayan Mutt, who have supported the government’s Hindutva plans.
Political analyst Sajjan Kumar of People’s Pulse, a research organisation, told ET that the way the event was conducted showed the confidence of a victor. “What the RSS and BJP are doing now is what Savarkar had wanted –– militarise hindus in the way they think and hinduise politics. But for some trolls, the political leadership of the Sangh Parivar already have adopted a patronising approach showing that they conceded a hierarchy where they talk about a unity project from the vantage point of Hindutva.”
However, the challenge for the RSS and VHP is also to sanitise Ayodhya of its history of conflict in public memory that political observers say will not be easy, despite the SC verdict, and present it as a beatific temple town, Kumar said.
“Popularly, Ayodhya will be related to Lord Rama and his birthplace. That will remain the strongest in public perception. Muslims will not talk about it as they too have conceded to the politics, but they will always have the memory of losing out. In their subjective conversations, this will come up though Babri was not significant for Muslims. These memories will be further entrenched if there is more of a deliberate effort to sanitize the religious place.”
Political observers who have tracked the movement said the VHP, through bodies such as Sant Samiti, has slowly increased its influence in monastic orders, often persuading seers to be on the side of BJP and RSS.
Mahamandleshwar Swami Balakanand Giri Maharaj of Anand Akhara, Bhante Shantimitra, a buddhist monk, Mahant Phuldol Biharidas who had insisted on the expedited court hearing, Mahant Rajendra Das of Malook Peeth ashram in Vrindavan, Shyam Sharan Dev Acharya, acharya of Nimbarkacharya Peeth in Rajasthan, Ram Kamal Das Vedanti were among the other guests at the event on Wednesday.
Among the Sadhus and politicians who had mobilised people to do kar seva, many have died, while some like Pravin Togadia and Vinay Katiyar have been unceremoniously asked to leave the movement and the VHP. Some like Sanjay Joshi and Govindacharya have also been estranged with the party and hence, not invited for the event. Others such as former minister Uma Bharati, who on Tuesday chose to warn how it is harmful to make Ram a political figure, was seen sitting on the first row at the event.
Over the years, the number of Shankaracharayas, mahants and mahamandaleshwars have also increased, with many aligned with the Sangh Parivar appointed to the highest posts. Dissenting shankaracharyas who had openly criticised the government were not invited to the event.
“It was only Ashok Singhal that the sadhus would listen to…he would tell them, in a no nonsense way, that the andolan was his responsibility and they should leave it to him and focus on their work of guiding people. There were caste, sectarian issues among akharas and sadhus. It took many years, but now most seers are on the same page,” a VHP member said.