Cornered over Ram temple, how the BJP is hoping for salvation in the Kumbh Mela
Arrangements are on in Prayaraj at a hectic, impressive pace. The message seems to be that the party cares for Hindu sentiments, and can also deliver on infrastructure.
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The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, is leaving no stone unturned to make this year’s Kumbh Mela historic.
Preparations for the event in Prayagraj are on at an unprecedented scale. From the tent city to ‘Paint My City’, high-scale integrated security arrangements to the use of modern technology, the residents of Prayagraj are experiencing things they have not seen before.
The Kumbh Mela is set to begin on January 15. (Photo: Author)
While Yogi had received a lot of flak for changing the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj, this time, the UP government seems to be making efforts to change the whole façade of the city — with a unique mix of art, tradition and development.
Every square and corner of Prayagraj is witnessing radical change, which has indeed impressed its residents.
For Yogi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP, the Kumbh Mela this time seems to be about more than just one religious festival.
Beset by recent electoral setbacks, rising anti-incumbency and hardline right wing groups scaling up the demand for the Ram temple, the BJP seems to be using this event as an opportunity to start afresh for the 2019 elections.
The Ram temple — once the BJP’s favourite poll plank — has recently been causing it problems. At the Kumbh, the VHP may organise a ‘dharma sansad’, where participating sadhus could take up the issue of the temple. The BJP usually supports and benefits from such gatherings. But it is no longer 2014, and sadhus are unhappy with the party for not bringing in legislation for the Ram Mandir and instead choosing to wait for the court’s verdict.
Artists are painting the walls of Prayagraj as part of the 'Paint My City' initiative. (Photo Courtesy: https://kumbh.gov.in/en/paint-my-city)
The Mandir has added to the party’s woes in a state where the SP and BSP have joined hands, and Yogi Adityanath’s government frequently receives brickbats for poor administration.
Seen in this light, the large-scale preparation for the Kumbh is also a message to the BJP’s core vote base — that the party cares deeply about Hindu events, and is capable of delivering on both the faith and the infrastructure fronts.
Through the facelift to Prayagraj, Yogi Adityanath is trying to give an image makeover to his government too.
The Kumbh, thus, is a stage for 2019 — if not the temple, then the Kumbh, in an attractive package of tradition, faith and development.