As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reiterated its commitment for a Ram Mandir in its manifesto released on Monday, disparate voices rang out from the Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura, once a part of the Ayodhya-Mathura-Kashi trinity that the party had sought to propel as part of its saffron agenda.
Temple politics have been at the heart of BJP's rise and emotive appeal, but will it continue to be so? At the Krishna Janmabhoomi, guarded by a large security contingent against the backdrop of white and green domes of the Shahi Idgah mosque, the jury is out on the issue.
"Ayodhya to jhanki hai, Kashi-Mathura baaki hai," was the slogan doing the rounds after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. But Mathura, and Kashi, could never become Ayodhya. More than 22 years later, the temple complex, believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna, continues to resonate with voices as diverse as the Indian electorate itself.
The pundit who sits inside the prison cell, the 'garbha griha,' believed to be the exact birthplace of Lord Krishna spells his allegiance to the BJP. "This is the birthplace of Sri Krishna. We resurrected the Krishna Janmabhoomi and people here are Hinduwadi. We have always voted for the BJP and my vote is for (Narendra) Modi," he says.
A few shopkeepers inside the temple complex too voice their support for Modi. "There's a Modi wave in Mathura and in India," says one. But a woman buying chunnis from the shop sniggers and retorts: "Baniya ho, isliye bol rahe ho aisa (you are saying this because you belong to the merchant community)."
The support for BJP pales as one moves away from the sanctum sanctorum. The man in charge of guarding the devotees' shoes at the temple says the BJP may make as much noise as it wants to, but this is a Jat-dominated area and votes will go to sitting MP Jayant Chaudhary, son of popular Jat leader Ajit Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) party.
He appears nonchalant about the "Modi wave" and says he will vote for Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Yogesh Divedi is the BSP candidate, while Chandan Singh is contesting for the Samajwadi Party.
Next to him are two women dressed in a blue salwar-kameezes, presumably in charge of sweeping the temple precincts. They have no preferences or predictions, but a security personnel standing next to them declares that it will be a tough competition between the RLD and the BJP. Talk is that since the Jats have been upset with the RLD for not backing them during the Muzaffarnagar riots, their votes may swing to the BJP.
An old gentleman manning the ticket counter puts it succinctly and voices the old truism that is just as valid in 2014 — elections are fought and decided in India's villages. "Four out of the five Vidhan Sabha seats in Mathura district have a majority rural electorate. You can't know till the end who they will vote for and why, but they will decide the results," he says.
A development pitch, be it Modi's or some other candidate's, may then reap more results than any call to build a temple.