Modi will play Jai Shri Ram politics in days to come

Sharat Pradhan
Sharat PradhanOct 12, 2016 | 19:38

Modi will play Jai Shri Ram politics in days to come

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took everyone by surprise in Lucknow on October 11 when he refrained from making any reference to the Uri attack or the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army against Pakistan.

Modi, who was on a brief visit here to celebrate Dussehra, shunned anything that could be even remotely construed as an attempt to draw political mileage out of the military strikes, as was being alleged by the opposition.


In a statesman-like discourse, the prime minister very skilfully conveyed that he had no intention to escalate the engagement with Pakistan. "We have always believed in peace, but we are ready to go at war if the situation so warrants," he declared. And was quick to add, "yet we are a nation that can again revert to peace". He sought to elaborate this by emphasising how the nation's philosophy was influenced by Buddha and Gandhi.

Hindutva symbolism was apparent when the organisers gifted Modi a replica of the Sudarshan Chakra - the lethal war weapon used by Ram and Lord Krishna. Photo credit: ANI

Modi's 90-minute visit to the capital city of the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, which goes to the polls in a few months from now was limited to attending the traditional Dussehra celebrations at the local Aishbagh Ramlila grounds, which have the distinction of hosting the event since the 16th century.

The venue is believed to have been used by Tulsidas for enacting the first Ramlila during Mughal emperor Akbar's rule. What enthused the organisers was the fact that this was the first time that any prime minster had attended the ritual here instead of New Delhi - where prime ministers have, in the past, made it a point to attend the routine Dussehra ceremony.


While he made oblique references to various political and social issues, in a clear departure from the past, Modi was blatant about letting Hindutva play up. Unlike the times he shunned any reference to the far-Right Hindu ideology, on Dussehra Day, the PM did not hesitate to raise chants of "Jai Shri Ram", a battle cry popular with the BJP rank and file.

Visibly enthused by intermittent cries of "Jai Shri Ram" as also "Modi-Modi", the prime minister himself joined the chorus of delirious youth who had thronged the relatively-small venue. In fact, when the Ramlila performance on a specially erected stage came to a close with the killing of Ravana, Modi himself took the lead in cheering the victory with "Jai Shri Ram".

Even as the organisers claimed that "Jai Shri Ram" was a routine ritual at any Dussehra or Ramlila, analysts see it an some kind of an indication of the shape of BJP's poll politics in days to come. Many insiders also see it as Modi's endorsement of playing up the Hindutva card when the state goes to the polls.

Similar symbolism was visible when the organisers gifted Modi a replica of the Sudarshan Chakra - the lethal war weapon used by Ram and Lord Krishna, as also Hanuman's gadda. The PM had consciously avoided such symbolism at his 2014 general election rallies.


Going by the theme of the event "Aatankvaad ka samool nash ho (Let terrorism be completely destroyed)" - spelt out prominently on the 121-ft tall Ravana effigy - it was assumed by all and sundry that the prime minister would not leave any stone unturned to play up the surgical strikes in an obvious bid to exploit them politically. But he left everyone stumped by not embarking on the subject at all.

His reference to terrorism was far more generalised in context and content. He made it a point to let every human evil be symbolised by Ravana, whilst he termed terrorism the biggest of all evils on earth.

He called upon everyone to be united against terror, at the same time expressing his concern over rampant social ills like discrimination against the girl child, the inequality faced by women, casteism, communalism as also dynastic politics.

However, these were not without subtle references - his specific allusion to "Jaativaad (casteism)" could be seen as an indirect attack on Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the reference to "vanshvaad (dynastic rule)" pinned the focus on Samajwadi Party, while the mention of "sampradayikta (communalism)" was clearly aimed at proclaiming that he was going to rise above what his party is always identified with.

Critics see his tirade against "gender inequality" as an expression of his tilt in favour of the Uniform Civil Code - over which the BJP and other parties have traded much rhetoric.

Modi sat through the final phase of the Ramlila performance and watched the end of Ravana on stage. However, for security reasons, he did not wait for the burning down of the 121ft tall effigy.

To ensure that Modi's message was heard far and wide in the state capital, the organisers made large-scale arrangements to screen the event live across several parts of the city. Numerous LED screens were installed in different localities for the purpose.

It is believed that Modi's speech sought to send out the subtle Hindutva - this ensured chief minister Akhilesh Yadav did not attend the event, despite visiting the Lucknow airport to fulfil the official protocol of receiving the prime minister. What he apparently fears is being seen in the company of Hindutva-mongers, lest it mars the Samajwadi Party clout - and its core constituency of Muslims.

Last updated: October 12, 2016 | 19:38
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