Kumbh 2019: An intersection of faith and politics

Politics

20 Mar 2019

BJP's poll campaign began with Kumbh. Will it get results?

Uttar Pradesh holds high importance for BJP. Banking on the Ram Janmbhoomi emotions and the sensitive Ayodhya issue, the party rose to national prominence in the late 80s and early 90s.

So when BJP finally ended its dry spell in the state after years, it turned the religious Kumbh Mela into a spectacle.

It was also BJP's first mega election campaign. We tell you why.

Kumbh Mela

The Ardh Kumbh was grander than Kumbh

The Ardh Kumbh was grander than Kumbh

Kumbh celebrates the confluence of three holy rivers- Ganga, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati. Bathing at this sangam (union) washes away all your sins, the Hindu religion underlines.

The main event is held every 12 years and the 2019 affair was actually the Ardh Kumbh.

But Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath turned it into a grand affair, nevertheless, and gave Prayagraj a makeover.

Preparations

Yogi Adityanath's government spent Rs. 4,300 crore on Kumbh 2019

The BJP government at state earmarked Rs. 4,300 crore for the event making it the costliest Ardh Kumbh ever.

The event, which started on January 15, was organized in an area of 3,200 hectare.

In 49 days, more than 20 crore pilgrims took a bath there. The government set up nearly 1 lakh toilets and installed 20,000 dustbins to promote Swachh Bharat.

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Transformation

Kumbh 2019 made Prayagraj beautiful, in ways no one imagined

Kumbh 2019 made Prayagraj beautiful, in ways no one imagined

And this isn't it. Over 100 artists used buildings of Prayagraj as a canvas and decorated the city under the Paint My City campaign. The roads were widened, new trains were introduced and flight travel facilitated.

As a result, Kumbh 2019 secured place in Guinness Book of World Records for the largest crowd management, largest sanitation drive and largest painting exercise of public sites.

Satisfaction

Most of the visitors left satisfied

While non-natives (people from nearly 192 countries visited Kumbh) were impressed by the preparations, those who belonged to Prayagraj couldn't believe it was their city.

At least three people told this writer on different occasions that Kumbh 2019 was Adityanath's biggest success since he took office.

The glee on their faces confirmed Adityanath and BJP achieved what they set out to do.

Reason

After heartbreak in Hindi heartland, BJP turned towards Kumbh

After heartbreak in Hindi heartland, BJP turned towards Kumbh

Kumbh 2019 was as much about politics as it was about religion. Battered after losing Hindi heartland states in December 2018, BJP desperately wanted to connect with masses. And Kumbh gave the perfect opportunity.

With a lot of help from its parent body, the RSS, BJP pulled off off the exemplary project.

While playing the Hindutva card, BJP also showed its "perfect" organizational skills.

RSS' support

RSS threw its weight behind Kumbh, helped BJP

Had it not been for RSS, Kumbh 2019 wouldn't have tasted the success it did. Before people even got a whiff of it, RSS quietly started delegating its workers for the event.

The involvement of RSS workers, whose reputation of being strict disciplinarians and remarkable organizers precedes them, served as a boon for state government.

Several RSS affiliates also set up camps at Kumbh.

Sangh's eye check-up camps gained attention

"One of the highlights of the Sangh's activities will be setting up of a large number of eye check-up camps in the Kumbh Mela area where swayamsevaks will distribute one lakh spectacles to the needy pilgrims," an RSS member told Caravan before Kumbh started.

Outreach

State government widened its outreach with other events

State government widened its outreach with other events

This time BJP and RSS decided against restricting Kumbh to religious activities and made it about outreach. This is why "mini Kumbhs" were organized at different places.

Yuva Kumbh, Mahila Shakti Kumbh, Sanskriti Samaveshi Kumbh, Sadbhav Kumbh, and Paryavaran Kumbh were organized at Lucknow, Vrindavan, Prayagraj, Ayodhya, and Varanasi respectively.

At these events topics like women empowerment, environmental protection got a "Hinduism" touch.

BJP used Kumbh to push its "Samagra Hindutva" idea

BJP also pushed its samagra Hindutva ideology, aimed at establishing new bonds with the Dalits and other backward sections, at Kumbh. BJP President Amit Shah spoke about this with workers and the idea received a green flag from Sangh as well.

Hindutva

What BJP couldn't do with Ayodhya, it did with Kumbh

In the recent past, BJP's lawmakers pressurized the party to bring an ordinance for the construction of Ram temple.

This showed BJP's approach towards the sensitive issue hasn't found many takers.

However, with Kumbh, BJP got an opportunity to play the Hindutva card. Though several seers remained miffed with the party for delaying the construction, it managed to gain new fans by organizing the event with near perfection.

Leadership

BJP leaders basked in Kumbh fever, while Opposition remained absent

BJP leaders basked in Kumbh fever, while Opposition remained absent

Yogi Adityanath's Cabinet meeting at Kumbh and PM Modi's dip helped BJP earn more brownie points.

While BJP painted Prayagraj in its color, other parties failed to cash in on the fervor. The only prominent non-BJP leader who was seen at the event was SP national president Akhilesh Yadav.

While Congress booked two tents, its leaders didn't show up. In fact, many sources claimed Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi would attend Kumbh, but she chose not to.

Possibilities

BJP's Kumbh gamble may turn out to be fruitful

The last time elections were held in India, BJP won 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP. It swept the state again in 2017 Assembly polls but after that tasted defeat.

BJP lost all by-elections and failed to retain Gorakhpur, the seat which has been voted for BJP since 1991.

Desperately fishing for an opportunity to regain its charm, BJP milked Kumbh as much as it could and the rivers might end up "blessing" the party on May 23.

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Akhilesh Yadav

Ayodhya

Kumbh 2019

Narendra Modi

Prayagraj

Priyanka Gandhi

Ram Janmabhoomi

Uttar Pradesh

Yogi Adityanath

Amit Shah

Ardh Kumbh

BJP President Amit Shah

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

Congress

Guinness Book

Kumbh

Kumbh Mela

Lok Sabha

Mahila Shakti Kumbh

Paint My City

Paryavaran Kumbh

PM Modi

Ram Janmbhoomi

Sadbhav Kumbh

Samagra Hindutva

Sanskriti Samaveshi Kumbh

Several RSS

SP

Swachh Bharat

World Records

Yuva Kumbh

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