|Three Californian women greet devotees at the Maha Kumbh Mela in
Allahabad on Tuesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Feb. 5: Narendra Modi will be at the Maha Kumbh Mela on February 12 to take a holy dip in the Sangam, official sources in Gandhinagar said.
The Gujarat chief minister’s visit would be “purely religious, without political overtones”, the sources stressed. His path would not cross that of the VHP, which has organised a congregation at the Kumbh.
Modi, the sources said, would fly directly to Allahabad and spend a few hours at the Triveni before returning to Gandhinagar the same day.
Uttar Pradesh BJP sources said they would have liked to arrange a workers’ meeting with Modi. “But given that he has such tight security, it might not be possible. Of course, there’s a huge demand from our workers,” a BJP office-bearer in Lucknow said.
The VHP, desperately latching on to Modi and the BJP for a lifeline, had earlier given the impression that it was about to lend its voice to the “Modi-for-PM” chorus at the Kumbh.
Its former president, Ashok Singhal, had claimed that the congregation of clerics on February 6 and 7 would make a “dhamakedar” (big bang) announcement and did not contradict speculation it was about Modi’s projection as the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister in 2014.
Sections of the VHP wanted Modi to attend the congregation. But given his acrimonious relations with the Gujarat VHP, BJP sources said Modi thought it “best” to avoid them at a time the outfit has flagged the Ram temple on its agenda and is demanding a ban on “offending” art shows like an exhibition of nude paintings now on display in a Delhi gallery.
Along with Singhal, former VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia has also swung back into action. Togadia fell out with Modi a long time ago and had allegedly sabotaged the BJP in quite a few seats in the Gujarat elections. Modi, the sources said, has “no issues” with Singhal but remains “deeply suspicious” of Togadia, who figures prominently in the Allahabad congregation.
Moreover, the sources said, Modi is “keen” to shed his image as a “Hindutva hardliner” and adopt a more inclusive political template. “He hopes that his credentials as an administrator and a go-getter will trump the 2002 baggage so that even if Muslims don’t vote for him, they will be less antagonistic towards him,” a source said.