After checking into Hotel Ganga Deluxe, I headed straight for the main temple. Right next to the grand temple, giving it architectural completion stood Yogi Adityanath’s palatial house-cum-office. Taking off my sandals, I walked into the massive hall. A dozen people, men and women in dhotis and saris, sat cross-legged on the floor. In front of them was a long wooden table piled with stacks of paper. A vacant chair awaited its master. On their right, three men were sitting on mats, working behind knee-high tables. With spectacles slipping down their noses, they bore an eerie resemblance to the munshijis (accountants of landed states) of the Hindi movies of the 1950s. The walls were covered with huge portraits of earlier Mahantas.
I did not have an appointment, but upon hearing that I was from Nepal, one of the munshis asked me to wait at the oher end of the room.
As Adityanath walked in, everyone stood up. He waved his hand and sat down on the vacant chair behind the table. There was a sudden scramble and I could see people crawling under the table. Touched thirty-five-year-old master’s feet, slithered out, and bowed in reverence again after standing up. The cycle was repeated-with old women, young babies and middle-aged men all playing obeisance. The saffron-clad, clean shaven Adityanath, busy signing papers and giving instructions to his three assistance, barely looked up to acknowledge the devotees and the supplicants.
I waited. After ten minutes, Adityanath pointed to me and said,’ speak.’
I introduced myself and asked him what he thought of the situation in Nepal.
He said, ‘all of you have spoilt a paradise. There is anarchy. The Maoists have not given up arms and want to grab power through goonda raj. They want to extend their influence from Pashupati to Tirupati. Nepal might disintegrate. The unifying force in Nepal, the soul that unites the body, is the Hindu king and Hindu culture. Yeh secularism kyon ladd diya waha pe? (Why was secularism imposed there?)’
He was refereeing to the decision made by the restored Nepali Parliament in May 2006 to effect a fundamental change in the Nepali state structure.
Adityanath’s support for the king was not unexpected. But the moves made by the monarchy in 2005 had less to fissures within the broader Sangh Parivar in Indian on Nepal. But some moderates in the BJP and RSS felt that the King had made a mistake and should have worked with the political parties against Maoist.
But, Adityanath clearly disagreed.
He went on. ‘The problem was that the raja was not aggressive enough. His mistake was he was too soft. I have not met him since 2004 but my assessment is he gave up too easily. He should have gone after everyone who opposed him. The king should not be silent and must take matters in his hand. He has our support. Hindu monarchy and Hindu state cannot be divorced from each other.’
And why did he think the King was so central to the Nepali nation?
‘India’s unification, out of 550-plus princely states, was possible because there was one umbrella party and the states were too small to rebel. In Nepal today, you have too many parties with limited base and growing regionalism. This never happened during monarchy. There was no discrimination. The king does not loot people like politicians. For 250 years, there was no discrimination in Nepal under royalty, now everyone is divided. What is going to keep your country as one? Who is the king is not important? What is essential is essential is that he should be a Hindu. It is the soul that unites the body…’
We were back to that old argument that many in Nepal had made for decades; the only thing that unites this diverse country is the monarchy.
But, there seemed to be a contradiction in the young yogi’s assessment of the king- as the unifying figure- and his support for the Madhesi movement of the plains-whose leaders blamed the nationalism imposed by the monarchy for having reduced them to second-class citizens. He did not see it the way.’ See, Madhesis must have social and economic equality in Nepal. But we don’t support their demand for a separate country. What we want is a unified Nepal as a Hindu state.’
I had heard from informed sources in Kathmandu and Delhi that the Gorakhnath temple’s interest in Nepal was not merely spiritual or religious. It was said to own property in the country, which had been confiscated by the Maoists. Adityanath’s fellow BJP MPs from the region also possessed landed estates across the border. They have even sent some of their hired goons to support the military sponsored anti-Maoist vigilante groups in the terai during the war.
I asked Adityanath if they had commercial interests in Nepal?
‘Tum pagal ho kya? [Are you mad?]. The temple cannot have economic interests. Ever. Whatever we have is for religious purposes. I do not own any land. But the math has some property in Dang, in western terai, Gorkha and Kathmandu.’
The question has rubbed him the wrong way. He continued,’ who had fed you all this? Are you a Maoist? Ab yahan se jao.’
The last thing I wanted was to antagonize the powerful politician on his home turf. I requested him to answer one last question- what did he think of the government of India’s Nepal policy?
‘They are fools. Only Nehru understood India.’
That was strange, a Hindutva mascot agreeing with the Nehruvian vision of the region.
Nehru knew monarchy was necessary in Nepal and restored the king after the Rana rule. Anything that happens in Nepal will affect us. We have a 1,751 kilometer border, and people like us who live next to it suffer the most. There has to be a stable and peaceful Nepal and only monarchy can provide that. India is destroying that institution. From the 12-point agreement, Maoist agenda has expanded. The Maoists and our Naxalites work together. In India too, Naxalites influence has grown because of this government’s leniency. If BJP was in power, this would never have happened. The country has handed over to the Maoists. It is terrible.’
A portion of the book Battles of the New Republic, A contemporary History of Nepal by Prashant Jha published in 2014 by Aleph Book Company.