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  India   Politics  09 Mar 2017  PM Modi offers Somnath prayers as UP votes

PM Modi offers Somnath prayers as UP votes

THE ASIAN AGE. | SANJAY BASAK
Published : Mar 9, 2017, 12:52 am IST
Updated : Mar 9, 2017, 7:22 am IST

This was Mr Modi’s 10th visit to his home state and first to the Somnath temple after becoming Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming out of the Somnath Temple in Gujarat's Gir-Somnath district. (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming out of the Somnath Temple in Gujarat's Gir-Somnath district. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: On the day his constituency Varanasi went to the polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed “jalabhishek” at the Somnath temple in Gujarat, his home state. His “jalabhishek” of  Lord Shiva was telecast live by almost all major television channels across the country. The PM was accompanied by BJP president Amit Shah and veteran BJP leader Keshubhai Patel, who is chairman of the temple trust.

This was Mr Modi’s 10th visit to his home state and first to the Somnath temple after becoming Prime Minister.

With the going getting tough in UP, the BJP shifted gear and switched from the development plank to mandir and Hindutva politics. The Prime Minister, who had sought “blessings” at the Kashi Vishwanath temple before his Varanasi roadshow last Saturday, also began his Town Hall speech with the chant of “Har Har Mahadev”.

Talking about the PM’s visit to Somnath on the last day of polling, a senior BJP leader said “there was nothing wrong in offering prayers at the Somnath temple and it has nothing to do with elections”.  In a scathing attack, Congress spokesman Sandeep Diskhit said the telecast of  the Prime Minister’s visit to the Somnath temple was “a naked communal appeal on a voting day”. Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari said the Prime Minister had “denuded the institution by his chicanery and was trying to be cleverer by half in circumventing the model of conduct”.

Besides the debate over the telecast of his “jalabhishek” coinciding with voting in UP, Mr Modi’s  visit to Gujarat assumes significance as the state is due to hold Assembly elections next year and reports indicate that all is not well with the BJP there. Over the past few years the BJP has been losing the support of the influential Patidar community. Dalits in the state are also up in arms against the party.  The 2015 civic polls were a loud wake-up call for the BJP. While the party won 2,017 taluka panchayat seats, the Congress bounced back with 2,548 taluka seats, and also wrested 20 of the 31 panchayat seats from the BJP.

There is some speculation that the Assembly elections in the state could be advanced. The PM is expected to meet all top leaders, including chief minister Vijay Rupani, to discuss preparations for the Assembly polls.

That the PM has begun the exercise of  mending fences with rivals in the party became evident when former CM Keshubhai Patel was reappointed as chairman of the Somnath temple trust on Wednesday. The Prime Minister is also one of the trustees. Mr Patel had quit the BJP over his simmering differences with Mr Modi, but had later rejoined the party before the Lok Sabha polls.

That things are changing in Gujarat became somewhat clear with posters screaming “Modi go back” coming up in the outskirts of Gandhinagar on Tuesday. There were media reports that a group of youth from the Patel community claiming to have thrown eggs at the BJP president’s cavalcade on Monday night.

A lot, however, will depend on the election results, and specially so from Uttar Pradesh. While the satta bazar across India has been predicting a BJP victory in UP, the saffron leaders “are not so certain”, sources say. A UP electoral victory will again put the BJP in an unassailable position, while a defeat could cast a dark shadow over the coming Gujarat polls and the 2019 general election.

Tags: narendra modi, lord shiva, manish tewari, somnath temple
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi