The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Narendra Modi are busy selling the idea that he is God’s chosen one to be the next prime minister of India. In his speeches and interviews, Modi has suggested his becoming the PM was a foregone conclusion.
Similarly, on Thursday, at Varanasi, he said it was Mother Ganga who had called him to India’s spiritual capital to undertake a divine mission of cleaning up the holy river.
“After coming here, I felt neither the BJP has sent me, nor I have come here (of my own volition). I am here because Ganga Mata has called for me. I feel like a small boy coming to my mother’s lap…,” Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, said.
About 24 hours before this, the Gujarat chief minister had said, “God chooses certain individuals to do certain difficult work. I believe God has chosen me for this work. Now, I only need your blessings,” he said during his Wednesday evening 3D broadcast to 100 places across India.
Both Modi and the BJP election campaign, focused primarily on issues of development and governance until now, have turned to using Hindutva symbols and icons. This shift towards Hindutva is more pronounced in the tough electoral battleground of the Hindi heartland. The BJP’s slogan of “Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi”, dropped a month ago after protests from religious leaders for equating Modi with God, has made a comeback but unofficially. The slogan is being used openly at his rallies, like on Thursday evening at Darbhanga, where he was welcomed on to the stage with shouts of “Har har Modi…”
BJP strategists, say sources in the party, are unsure if the party’s talk on development could overcome caste barriers, and the party has turned to Hindutva to ensure a consolidated Hindu vote in UP and Bihar. But this invocation of God and deification of Modi have made some in the Sangh Parivar unhappy.
“We are far from comfortable about this,” a Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader said. The leader said many like Varanasi’s Mahant Nrityagopal Das and others opposed the hero worship of Modi and creation of his personality cult. “But the RSS has taken the decision to support Modi to the hilt and everybody has been asked to fall in line, at least until the conclusion of the elections,” the leader, who didn’t want to be identified, said.
Modi, in his blog post on Thursday, stated: “Today, I embark on a unique and memorable journey from the land of Somnath to the city of Lord Vishwanath.” It was this introduction of Hindutva subtext that the BJP felt it needed to improve its fortunes in Purvanchal’s 32 seats, as also nearly a dozen neighbouring seats of Bihar. Fielding Modi, it now believes, has served this purpose.
Modi landed at Varanasi in a helicopter, garlanded first the statue of Banaras Hindu University founder Madan Mohan Malaviya and later of Patel and Vivekananda, before riding atop an open truck through the city. He waved at the thousands who lined the three-kilometre stretch from Lahurabeer to Kachahari and incessantly chanted his name.
Amit Shah, in-charge of BJP affairs in UP, said the large crowd was evidence that “the Modi wave in UP has turned into a tsunami”. He said the impact of the wave was being felt in neighbouring Bihar as well.
The filing of nomination and its live telecast coincided with voting on 117 seats across India, including in several seats in Bihar and UP. Modi and his team of strategists pressed all the right buttons, with noted classical singer Chhannu Lal Mishra, Malviya’s grandson Giridhar, a retired judge, as also a weaver accompanying Modi to be his proposers as he filed his nomination.