In a deeply religious society, the symbolism of events such as Kumbh Mela can only be discounted at one’s own peril.
For the BJP, conducting a successful Kumbh Mela at (now) Prayagraj is as important as finalising the finer details of a booth level voter management meeting. The stakeholders in both constituencies are the same.
While millions of devotees are congregating at the Kumbh Mela for a holy dip in the Ganga river and hoping to wash their sins off, dozens of politicians are also rushing there to fish for votes in the holy waters.
Kumbh Mela has never before been made into such a contentious issue as it is being now. For decades, the famous Kumbh Mela has been observed with due piety and reverence.
Is this the first time that such an auspicious event is coinciding with an even greater important event called the general elections? Perhaps that explains the mud-slinging on the ghats of the Ganga.
The BJP has acquired excellence in organising events, programmes and mass gatherings, especially religious ones such as the Kumbh Mela. The preparations were supposedly going on for more than a year.
It is also important, especially in an election year, for all and sundry to be seen in the right place and in the right coloured attire. And why fault the BJP leaders if they made a beeline to Prayagraj to be present full time in a partial Kumbh, the Ardh Kumbh?
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The 50-day long religious event (14 January to 04 March this year) draws millions of devotees from all over the country and abroad. While the religious price is impossible to determine, in commercial terms, it is a money spinner.
However, not many pink papers reported the profit and loss account of the earlier Kumbh Melas as they are doing this time, driving home the point that the BJP government in the state and at the Centre have hit the right publicity buttons.
According to the CII (Confederation of Indian Industries), the Kumbh Mela this year is likely to generate over five-and-a half-lakh employment opportunities, from airlines and tour operators to local guides and interpreters. Such a massive event (with 4,000 tents, 40,0000 LED lights in a 3,200 hectare-area) is also expected to earn an estimated revenue of about Rs 1.2 lakh crore. The UP government had allocated Rs 4,200 crore for the Kumbh Mela this time.
Needless to say, an event of this massive scale would not have been possible without the active and collective participation of not just the administration and the political class, but people in general and a large number of volunteers drawn from the BJP’s cadre base. Naturally, the message of its success would fetch rich political dividends for the people at the helm of the event.
This should explain the discomfort of BJP’s political adversaries, who have wasted no time in picking holes and firing slingshots at the party and its stalwarts. Unfortunately for these detractors, all their criticisms are boomeranging on them. In a deeply religious society, the symbolism of such events can only be discounted at one’s own peril. The Left leaders could never object to the grand Durga Pujas in West Bengal, including those put up by the comrades themselves, at times even inside the Writers’ Building. The Ganesh Mandals in Maharashtra are routinely patronised by local politicians.
Also read: At Kumbh meet, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat attacks SC over Sabarimala verdict
Little wonder therefore that former UP Chief Minister and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav decided to make a splash in the Ganga – not to muddy the waters, but to earn due respect in the eyes of the faithful, ostensibly eying the votes they can cast. The Congress party does not seem to be lagging behind in claiming their share of glory, and possibly votes.
Even Xi Jinping’s China is reportedly looking for ways to promote Buddhism to sell its Belt and Road projects, gain a foothold in Buddhist countries and fight separatist elements (as violent crackdown does not always help).
Unconcerned about the political intends, calculations and strategies, devotees are thronging to the Kumbh Mela with reverence and the hope to wash off their sins. It is difficult to say if politicians can wash off their sins as easily as the devotees.
The author is the former editor of ‘Organiser’.
Our sacred rivers are already polluted and now politicians are only adding more pollution by washing off their sins in the sacred river in the name of Khumb. I just want to know from author BJP often claims that it is party with difference. Is it necessary that they also follow others because they are exploiting religion for votes. What happens if Muslim CM conducts cabinet meeting in Mosque during Ramzam
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