Tourists out, security in, PM Modi begins Kanyakumari session

The Opposition has complained that this is a clever manipulation of the mandatory 'silence period' at the end of an election campaign

Modi at the Bhagavathi Amman temple (photo: PTI)
Modi at the Bhagavathi Amman temple (photo: PTI)

Yajnaseni Chakraborty

As promised, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his 45-hour meditation at Kanyakumari's famed Vivekananda Rock Memorial this evening. The Opposition has complained that this is a clever manipulation of the mandatory 'silence period' at the end of an election campaign, but predictably, there has not been a peep out of the Election Commission of India.

This five-yearly tradition began with a similar exercise in Kedarnath in 2019, and one would be interested to know who decides on these locations.

After arriving from nearby Thiruvananthapuram by helicopter, Modi offered prayers at the Bhagavathi Amman temple and reached the rock memorial by ferry service, and began a meditation session that is scheduled to last until 1 June, the last day of voting for the Lok Sabha election 2024.

For those not in the know, the Vivekananda Rock Memorial has come up at the spot where Swami Vivekananda is said to have sat in meditation and had a divine vision of 'Bharat mata'. The attempt to link himself to an iconic figure may not be entirely coincidental if one considers that Swami Vivekananda's birth name, before he took holy orders, was Narendranath Dutta.

Clad in an immaculate dhoti and a white shawl, presumably in honour of the photo-op, Modi prayed at the Bhagavathi Amman temple and circumambulated the garbhagriha or inner sanctum. Priests performed a special aarti and he was given temple prasad along with a shawl and a framed photograph of the temple's presiding deity.

Later, he reached the rock memorial and began his meditation at the dhyan mandapam. The popular tourist spot has, of course, been closed off to tourists for the duration of the distinguished visitor's meditation exercise.

While outfits including Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam staged a black flag demonstration in Madurai opposing Modi, social media platform X also witnessed a flood of #GoBackModi posts and memes galore, amid political opposition to the broadcasting of his meditation session in view of the seventh and final phase of voting for the Lok Sabha elections.

With the memorial premises teeming with security personnel, security has also been strengthened across the entire Kanyakumari district, and about 2,000 police personnel deployed, besides heightened vigil by the coast guard and the navy. Would be interesting to know how much all of this cost the exchequer, or how much the state government lost out in tourism revenue once this exercise is over.

Whatever the amount, the cost of the prime minister of the world's most populous nation trying to emulate a lone young monk on a spiritual quest, choosing to sit in meditation at land's end.

Before he embarked on the dhyan exercise, for a while, Modi stood on the stairs leading to the mandapam that offers panoramic views of the sea on all sides. Much as he did in Kedarnath before the 2019 polls, when he sat in meditation inside a cave, dressed impeccably in saffron, providing photo-ops galore.

Conveniently, a 33-year-old photograph of Modi has surfaced on the occasion, shared by an X handle named Modi Archives, showing Modi (then a BJP worker), along with senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, at the rock memorial in Kanyakumari at the start of the 'Ekta Yatra' to Kashmir.

Tamil Nadu has traditionally not been kind to the BJP. That feeling is unlikely to change with the media circus currently on view.

With inputs from PTI

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