The pilgrims coming out of Sangam after taking a holy dip are exposed to the smiling faces of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath whose hoardings have been put up throughout the 3,200-hectare Kumbh Mela ground declaring how the government has provided free electricity, gas connections and houses to the poor thus reducing this religious festival into a platform of spreading its election message.
With the general elections due this year the Bharatiya Janata Party governments both at the centre and the state are going the whole hog to make the sentiments of Hindutva dominate this Kumbh. Therefore, the governments have spent unprecedented money making this year’s Kumbh the costliest Kumbh ever held.
This year the budget of the Kumbh is ₹4300 crore – almost three and a half times more than 2013 Kumbh when ₹1200 crore was spent in this mega festival. This is not all. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had sent invites to 68 lakh gram pradhans across India asking them to attend Kumbh along with at least five villagers of their gram sabhas. Government has agreed to provide them the status of state guest, which means it will provide them with all the facilities including boarding and lodging at the Kumbh city.
“They are our guests and we are supposed to look after them. We have made arrangements of their stay and we will ensure that their stay in Kumbh is comfortable,” senior BJP leader Manoj Dixit satd.
The whole of the city of Prayagraj- erstwhile Allahabad – from the railway station to the Kumbh sthal has been covered with hundreds of hoardings which were put up by the Uttar Pradesh government whose tagline is “Sarvsidhiprad Kumbh,” which in Sanskrit, means “Kumbh is everything,”.
Regarding the discussions in the Akahras veer around the Ram temple and Narendra Modi, subtle messages are being sent across that only Modi can build temple and that he should be given another chance.
The pilgrims can feel the subtle BJP campaign in this Kumbh. Kusum Sharma, who came to take dip in sangam from Panna in Madhya Pradesh said that the BJP is using the Kumbh to propagate its ideology. “In all the akharas sermons that are held, they end up talking about Ram Temple and how this government is making efforts to protect Hindutva in the face of anti-Hindu forces,’ she said.
“This is a blatant misuse of this religious event. I do not belong to any political party and does not ascribe to any ideology but is aghast to see the Kamal (lotus which is BJP’s election symbol) in the Ayushman Bharat hoarding talking about giving free health facilities to poor,” she said.
Nityanand from Una district in Himachal Pradesh said that the people coming to attend the Kumbh will not get swayed by any political campaign inside the Kumbh area. “When one enters the Kumbh area he has only one target in mind to complete his `snan’ he is not concerned about subtle campaigns,” he said.
Even Abhilash Narain, a resident of Allahabad, says that the BJP’s campaign through the Kumbh will not yield any political result. “Janata chatur hai, sab jaanti hai (People are clever. They know everything,)” he said.