New Delhi, Feb. 5: Narendra Modi will be at the Kumbh Mela on February 12 to take a holy dip in the Sangam, official sources in Gandhinagar confirmed.
These sources stressed that the Gujarat chief minister’s visit to Allahabad will be “purely religious, without political overtones”. Modi will also not cross paths with the VHP that has organised a congregation of its “sants” and “sadhus” at the Kumbh.
Modi, said sources, will fly directly to Allahabad, spend a few hours at the Triveni and return to Gandhinagar on 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 — earlier gave an 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 “sant sammelan” (meeting) on February 6 and 7 would make a “dhamekedar” (big bang) announcement and did not contradict the speculation that it had to do with Modi’s projection as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. Sections of the VHP wanted Modi to attend the sammelan.
However, given Modi’s acrimonious relations with the Gujarat VHP leaders, BJP sources said he concluded it was “best” to avoid them at a time when the outfit has flagged the Ram temple on its agenda again and is demanding a ban on “offending” art shows like an exhibition of nude paintings by old Indian masters currently on display in one of Delhi’s top art galleries.
BJP sources stressed that Modi was “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.