Varanasi’s birthday boy raises eyebrows

PM’s birthday celebration looked contrived. Everyone was falling over each other to greet the PM. A number of BJP leaders doubt if the ‘show’ will help the PM politically in the next election

Varanasi’s birthday boy raises eyebrows

Sunita Shahi

While analysts were busy reading tea leaves and straws in the wind to decipher Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s long visit to a Bohra mosque at Indore and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat suddenly taking a u-turn on Hindutva, more drama was unfolding in Varanasi where ‘Kaka Modi’ decided to observe his 68th birthday.

Along with MA Jinnah, Mohammad Iqbal, the poet has been at the receiving end of the BJP and RSS for the Partition of India. Iqbal’s immortal song, “Saare Jahan se Achha, Hindustan Hamaara” was anathema to the pracharaks but students of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth at Varanasi were specifically trained to sing the song by way of greeting the Prime Minister at Varanasi.

The singing by the children, mostly ragpickers attending classes conducted by the NGO, was discordant but the PM seemed to be enjoying it. The district administration directed the NGO to make the students rehearse the song penned by a poet who the RSS was till recently fond of describing as the ‘spiritual father of Pakistan’.

Ironically, three madrasa teachers in Maharajganj district last month were arrested by UP Police for singing the song after flag hoisting at the school on Independence Day. Md. Azlur, Zunaid Ansari and Md. Nizam were arrested on orders from Lucknow.

A BJP leader said on condition of anonymity that while the RSS was not willing to dilute its “Hindutva image” yet, the party is “confused” because it has lost the support of a large number of middle-class voters. Modi, he felt, was looking “beyond the usual framework” to establish himself as a statesman.

“His frequent foreign visits are proof that he is trying to revamp his image from a hardcore Hindutva leader to a statesman. The man who had refused to wear a skull cap during his Sadbhavana fast in Gujarat in 2011 recently met a congregation of Dawoodi Bohras in Indore and followed up by listening to Iqbal’s song in Varanasi”, said the BJP leader.

Eyebrows in the RSS have risen, claim sources, following the Prime Minister celebrating his 68th birthday in his constituency. The holy city was lit up in Chinese lights, roads taken by him were hastily repaired and BJP workers put up earthen lamps at 68 different points in Varanasi. A ‘laddoo’ weighing 68 kilos was produced on the occasion even as 68 girl students of Kanya Vidyalaya of the Arya Samaj conducted a ritual for the PM’s long life.

Everyone falling over each other to greet the PM on his birthday looked contrived, commented Dwijendra Tripathi, UP Congress spokesperson. “It was theatre produced meticulously to entertain the birthday boy,” he quipped. Will the ‘show’ help the PM politically in the next election, wondered the BJP leader. He seemed to have his doubts. It could well put off the constituents, he feared.

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