Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at a public function in Rajasthan recently said that “Sanatan Dharma is India’s Rashtriya Dharma or the national religion”. CM Yogi added that every Indian must respect Sanatan Dharma. Was this a deliberate, cleverly crafted, strategic comment to divert attention from the heat built by the BBC documentary and the Hindenburg research report and the media focus on Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra? Or was he spelling out his future agenda of embarking on new temple movements across the country — or was he giving voice to the larger intent of the Narendra Modi Government to change the Indian Constitution?
All these probable reasons converge to a single premise that Yogi is trying to occupy a larger than life image with loftier goals not only for Rashtriya SwayamSevak Sangh but also for BJP. He is trying to carve out and gauge newer touchstones as far as politics of Hindutva is concerned as the time is inching closer towards the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. So all things considered, Yogi, by stirring up the “Sanatan as national religion” narrative, minces no words to express that he is the more aggressive Hindu mascot that RSS and the BJP need, to push the Hindu Rashtra agenda. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has vocally expounded his potent viability and suitability for an agenda on which the BJP has activated its back channels, building discreet and indirect narratives. Yogi without saying has said it explicitly enough to convey that he has no regard or courtesy for the Indian Constitution.
This is an alarming remark coming from a person occupying the Constitutional post of Chief Minister. The statement reeks of a divisive polarising narrative which completely discredits and decries the minorities living in India, coming up as a follow-up of his 80:20 remark during the Uttar Pradesh elections. Congress leader Uditraj tweeted, “CM Yogi said Sanatan Dharma is the national religion of India. This means other religions such as Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism,Christianity and Islam are finished.” Though the Grand Old Party has stopped short of saying anything on the Sanatan religion, this narrative surely challenges the existing Constitution and its provisions. Does Yogi imply that all other religions in India will be obliterated, does he feel that the pluralistic and diverse fabric of India needs to be changed?
What Yogi Adityanath said in Rajasthan is a mere extension of a pattern seen in recent times. Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar's public criticism of the judiciary with a remark that courts cannot dilute Parliamentary sovereignty almost sparked a debate on the separation of powers, bringing the focus back on the Basic Structure doctrine of the Constitution. Mr Dhankar questioned the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case verdict voicing his disagreement with the top court ruling that Parliament can amend the constitution but not the basic structure. The Vice President's comments were censured by senior lawyers of the country. Vivek Tankha said the theory is a “sacred pledge to save the Constitution from majoritarian rampage”; similarly former Union Minister P Chidambaram said, “The Honourable chairman, Rajya Sabha, is wrong when he says that Parliament is supreme. It is the Constitution that is supreme. The basic structure doctrine was evolved in order to prevent a majoritarian driven assault on the foundational principles of the Constitution.”
Though the Vice President's comments were seen as a direct confrontation between the judiciary and the executive, this also points towards a larger game plan to orchestrate changes in the Constitution. It's not just the Vice President, but Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju also seems to have taken up cudgels against the judiciary, targeting the collegium system, asking for a government representation in the appointment of judges ultimately leading to a situation not enumerated in the Constitution and which almost looks like complete disdain for the Law Code.
Article 25 of the Indian Constitution provides for freedom of conscience and the right of all individuals to freely profess, practise and propagate religion, mandates a secular state, requires the state to treat all religions impartially and prohibits discrimination based on religion. Nowhere does the Constitution talk about a national religion. So is Yogi eager to tamper with the Constitution in consonance with the RSS agenda of transforming India into a Hindu Rashtra? Can Prime Minister Narendra Modi spell this out as clearly as Yogi has done?
Yogi Adityanath seems to be pioneering an overzealous agenda when along with invoking the national religion rhetoric during the Rajasthan trip, he said, “If our religious places have been desecrated during any period, then a campaign for their restoration must be launched on the lines of Ayodhya where the construction of a grand temple of Lord Rama is going on after 500 years with the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” Well, this doesn't seem to be an emotive religious appeal as much as an unequivocal announcement of new temple movements on the lines of Ayodhya. Will Yogi embark on a rampant excavation exercise? He seems to be charting a long-term agenda despite RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat saying that the Sangh won't be interested in launching any more agitations after the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. Mr Bhagwat even said that there was no need to go looking for Shivlings inside mosques. So is Yogi establishing a supremacy which is beyond PM Modi's and RSS's scope? Will he renounce Constitutional legalities and proprieties to further the agenda of making Sanatan Dharma into a national religion? One can connect the dots and see that perhaps Yogi is eyeing the Prime Minister's seat and offering himself as a potential Prime Ministerial candidate, imaginably more vocal and aggressive than PM Modi. Yogi could be dangerous for a secular India, but what when he competes with PM Modi's persona which is secular at international fora but hard-core Hindu Hriday Samrat for the domestic audience? Will 2024 be a clash between Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath for the coveted PM'S chair?
Neelu Vyas is a senior television anchor and consulting editor with Satya Hindi
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