It was Monday the 13th 2021. Prime Minister Modi was inaugurating Phase I of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, built with a monumental Rs. 339 crores.
The corridor connects the iconic Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the Ghats along river Ganga. The corridor facilitates easy movement of pilgrims and devotees between the temple and the Ghats. They had to use congested streets to do so earlier. The first phase of the corridor which the PM inaugurated spreads over 5 lakh sq feet, and comprises 23 buildings.
So far so good. After all, nothing is wrong in upgrading facilities at an iconic temple where thousands congregate. Nothing is wrong in providing less congested passage for pilgrims who throng the temple in these times when a pandemic refuses to go away.
Spending Rs. 800 crore to upgrade facilities to decongest the precincts of an iconic temple doesn’t amount to splurging when India’s Global Hunger Index ranking has taken a beating.
There is nothing wrong in conceiving such a plan and executing it. Absolutely nothing.
The prime minister inaugurated Phase I of the corridor in the presence of a ‘galaxy of saints and dignitaries’ according to media reports. So what? This was after all an event meant to add to the convenience of saints. Rather, Sants specifically. So be it.
The Prime minister waxed eloquent as he is wont to, at such events which potentially set anybody’s blood on the boil, and adrenaline on the rush! ‘I want you all to take three resolutions-Swacchchtha(cleanliness),Srijan(innovation), and Atmanirbharta(self-reliance) today. Not for myself, but for our country’.
What is wrong with that too? India’s leader only exhorted Indians to be clean, innovative and self-reliant. He rightly asked Indians to adopt three laudable virtues. Just when he seemed to say all the right things at on that occasion, his discourse seemed to derail. Almost abruptly, he dwelt on the atrocities of Aurengzeb. ‘History is witness to Aurangzeb’s atrocities. His terror. But here, if an Aurangzeb comes, a Shivaji also rises.’ He thundered in his characteristic gusto, amidst his chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev.’
On an occasion such as this, he is not naïve to let go of an opportunity to dwell on history of subjugation of the majority in the hands of a tyrannical minority on damage mode. For, very soon, Uttar Pradesh would go to the polls.
Passions of a wronged majority had to be drummed up as they walk to the polling booth. There couldn’t be a better stage than this to play a drama to garner votes.
The Prime minister smelt blood like a lion accustomed to such a smell on a stage he is so familiar with. Passions had to be drummed up. Voters had to be charged up. So he chose to bank on Lord Shiva. Lord Rama could have a much-needed rest for now. For this was no Ayodya. This was Kashi, where the Vishwanath Temple, where Lord Shiva is the reigning deity is situated. Moreover, a crucial poll was approaching.
No stone was left unturned.
The PM invoked Raja Suheldev, a royal who was popular in Eastern UP for defeating the army of Muslim invader Salar Masood. He hailed Chhatrapati Shivaji for standing up to Aurangzeb. He mentioned how British Governor Warren Hastings made a hasty retreat from Kashi in the guise of a woman.
The UP assembly had to be retained and restored to the ‘able hands’ of Ajay Mohan Bisht.
He had come to Kashi to enact the drama to perfection to accomplish that mission.
Clad in saffron, and slugging a rudraksha mala around his neck, with a kalash in one of his hands, and chanting slokas, he took a dip in Ganga at Lalitha Ghat. He worshipped the Sun God for nine minutes standing in waist-deep water before proceeding to the temple to perform other rituals.
What is wrong in the Prime minister of the country flouting his religiosity? After all, as a Hindu, he reserves every right to worship as a Hindu adopting Hindu rites and rituals anywhere in this country. That right cannot be taken away from him Just because he is the elected leader of the country.
But, reality is otherwise. Being the elected leader of the entire nation, which includes people belonging to diverse faiths and belief systems, the Prime Minister is denied his or her right to resemble a temple tantric. Moreover, India isn’t a Hindu nation officially. Not yet. If he wants to worship the sun moon or stars or whatever he wishes to, right in the middle of the Ganga, or anywhere, he could most certainly do that away from prying cameras and the gear of the national television channel placed at vantage points to film the tantric Prime Minister unobtrusively. But, a private worship such as that wouldn’t fetch precious votes. It wouldn’t stir the heart and soul of devout Hindus who are about to walk to polling booths. A Prime minister praying privately in some remote corner of the country wouldn’t set the hearts of Hindus on fire to direct their inked finger to the lotus symbol on the EVMs!
History, not the cruel Aurangzeb’s, would catch up with the Prime minister and the political party he belongs to, for taking down secularism and religious plurality that India was once known for, along with him as he dipped himself deep into the waters of the Ganga in Kashi that day, and left citizens other than Hindus poorer in trust in Narendra Modi, their Prime Minister.