Kashi-Vishwanath corridor project an attempt to unleash religious fervour in poll-bound UP

Devsagar Singh

New Delhi, Dec 14: By launching the first phase of the grand Kashi-Vishwanath corridor project in Varanasi yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi  has sought to unleash  a religious fervour on UP voters , thereby  throwing a challenge to   the Samajvadi Party, the principal opposition ,in the poll–bound state. A cauldron of Hindutva experiments, UP  for ever remains the top priority for the BJP. Winning or losing the state in the upcoming assembly elections early next year will determine the BJP’s chances of retaining power at the Centre in the 2024 parliamentary polls. Naturally, the party’s stakes are high and being its mascot , the Prime Minister is leaving nothing to chance.

So what does the Kashi-Vishwanath corridor project signify? It aims at winning over the hearts of millions of Hindus who, for centuries, treat Varanasi as a city of pilgrimage. Kashi-Vishwanath temple  is a symbol of  faith for the devout not just  in UP but in the entire northern India. It requires no intelligence to understand, however,  that the BJP has a purpose in its religious pursuits in the state. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recently held a  huge public function in Ayodhya where a grand Ram Temple is being built. Earlier, he inaugurated   religious tourism , including the Budhist circuit.

Clearly,  the BJP is playing its Hindutva card openly. It remains to be seen how  the Opposition, namely the SP, responds to it. Its leader and former CM Akhilesh Yadav  will have to tread  cautiously. Any wrong step may prove costly. There are issues beyond Hindutva. Price rise, crimes against Dalits, social tensions, unemployment, among others,   are hurting the public. Much as Yogi may flaunt his iron hand in controlling crimes,  the state has witnessed  serious cases of rape and violence  against Dalits,  lynchings of the innocent  and alleged  encounter killings. These and more could emerge as issues before voters.

Issues polarising voters are bound to be raked up in the heat of electioneering in UP. But the Opposition will play to the gallery  if it gets involved beyond a point. Construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya and development of Kashi-Vishwanath corridor touches the core of every devout Hindu. There is little to quarrel over them. They should be hailed as  symbols of faith and harmony in a multi-cultural country like India. A large section  of Hindus are liberal who subscribe to interfaith co-existence. For them, polarising attempts may be counter productive.

Even so,  Akhilesh Yadav is pitted against a colossus. The BJP’s election machine is working  round the clock  with Prime Minister Modi  himself taking command. By combining  religious fervour  with ‘atmanirbhar Bharat’, Modi  sought to inject an elexir in voters of UP. It is only by combining can the Opposition give a fight. A weakened Mayawati and struggling Congress will only split the Opposition votes.

CM Yogi seems to have little charisma of his own beyond his  hardcore Hindutva followers. He is largely depending on Modi. For a substantial section of the BJP, though, Yogi is important because of  his following both in the party and the RSS.

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