VaranasiThe selection of Kashi as the new Gangotri of an ancient civilisation is apt, not accidental, for no other city so embodies India’s eternity, unceasing energy, and patient tenacity to endure

As the long-drawn parliamentary election meanders to a close, it would be churlish to deny that Mr Narendra Modi gambled well in his choice of Varanasi as the wellspring of his plans for rejuvenating India, economically and civilisationally. It is equally evident that the people of Gujarat realise he will quit Vadodara in the event of being anointed Prime Minister, and are willing to pay this price for the honour of having a son of the soil at the helm of the nation’s destiny at a testing time in its history. This gamble seems set to succeed.

The selection of Varanasi as the new Gangotri of an ancient civilisation is apt, not accidental, for no other city so embodies India’s eternity, unceasing energy, and patient tenacity to endure. Kashi, where the BJP leader has promised to restore the Ganga to its pristine purity, owes its eternal significance to the fact that it is here that the river bends back northwards to salute her Himalayan source before continuing downstream towards the Bay of Bengal.

The Ganga trickles out of the matted locks of Shiva, which is how the pyramidal peak of Kailash appears to the human eye. Mahadeo is inseparable from the story of the Ganga, or the story of Rama, for it was at Kashi that Shiva meditated to conceive the avatarhood of Rama; his presence is immortalised in the jyotirlinga of Vishwanath, lord of the world. The divine mother Parvati, present in her forms as Durga, Mahakali, Saraswati and Vageshwari, further marks her presence at the Manikarnika Ghat where she dropped her ear ring while bathing.

All strands of native tradition are woven into the weft and woof of the rich civilisational matrix of Kashi. For Jainas, it is the birthplace of Parsvanatha, born to King Asvasena and Queen Vama, who refused the throne in pursuit of his spiritual quest, and became the 23rd Tirthankara. In a previous incarnation, he was a prince of Ayodhya; Jainas believe that 22 Tirthankaras hailed from the Iksvaku dynasty of Sri Rama and two from the Hari clan of Sri Krishna. For Buddhists, too, Kashi is a venerable city; Gautam delivered his first sermon in the deer park in nearby Sarnath and preached in the city.

Through the ages, the city has drawn seers and seekers like a magnet. Adi Shankaracharya received enlightenment after encountering Shiva in the form of a chandala at Ganga Ghat. The sage Ramananda, Sant Kabir, Sant Raidas, and the Nath Panthi yogis added to its lustre. It was here that Goswami Tulsidas ‘saw’ and noted the Ramcharitmanas; he built the famous Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple. For centuries it has been the centre of learning. In the modern era, Bhartendu Harishchandra, Jai Shankar Prasad, Munshi Premchand, Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and the Theosophists converged on the city as the nation’s cultural fountainhead.

Kashi throbs with the promise of life, and liberation. As Shiva is also Nataraj, it is reputed to be the birthplace of nritya (dance), natya (drama) and vocal and instrumental music. The legendary Shehnai player, Ustad Bismillah Khan, embodied this rich cultural legacy. So did countless others in countless ways, for Muslims, as Girilal Jain noted, are a strand in the multi-strand Indian civilisation (The Hindu Phenomenon). At the other end of the spectrum, Kashi promises moksha, liberation from the cycle of life and death; the devout seek to exhale their last breath here in the hope of union, sanjugti, with the divine.

With so much living symbolism associated with the city, the rage of political rivals at Mr Modi’s stupendous road show when he went to file his nomination is understandable. The city came to a standstill; schools and colleges shut down (note that the Samajwadi Party rules the State), as did shops and other establishments; even magistrates, lawyers and litigants lined the road outside the courthouse; apparently only the Collector’s office functioned on April 24. No other nomination — not Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, or even Narendra Modi himself at Vadodara — in India’s electoral history equals what happened in Varanasi, where the wells of hope in a parched land opened up and flooded the city.

Certainly the people were there for Mr Modi, but at a deeper level they were there to affirm their optimism in the future. No other candidate has given people so much confidence in his ability to deliver on a complex vision that embraces diversity and shuns uniformity. This has cruelly exposed the hollowness of slogans that have hitherto passed off as the vision of political leaders, but burst like balloons when tickled by the BJP’s prime ministerial contender. The Congress’s complaint to the Election Commission that the Varanasi road show violated the Model Code of Conduct shows how badly it is rattled, for Mr Rahul Gandhi has had to wind up speeches with crowds walking out on him; cancel rallies due to thin crowds; and even Ms Sonia Gandhi has faced thin crowds in places, a fact even the loyal media could not disguise.

Mother Ganga has decided that a born pauper shall be a born-again prince and Kashi the archetype of India’s rejuvenation. In this spirit, Mr Modi’s reverence to Sardar Patel was a pledge to the unity he crafted; respect to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, a commitment to modern education rooted in civilisational values; while Swami Vivekananda and BR Ambedkar are revered as socially unifying figures. Mr Modi’s proposers, a retired judge and grandson of Pt Malaviya; a classical singer; a weaver and a boatman, capture the heart and soul of the eternal city.

Mr Arvind Kejriwal, fresh from the high of 49 days as Delhi Chief Minister, can be excused for thinking that he could be the ‘Raj Narain’ who would fell the new ‘iron man’. But for the Congress to invoke the services of a man accused of murdering the brother of its candidate Ajay Rai is a new low. Even more pathetic is its desperation to believe that this can work.

When a former actress from Mumbai lands in Amethi and forces Ms Gandhi to rush to rally the troops; when Ms Priyanka Vadra has to appeal for support from village to village while pretending to ditch her security but ferrying cameramen along; you know that all is not well. Instead of retreating with the grace of a defeated army, the Congress is hurtling like an irresistible force towards an implacable object. It can only come off worst.

Author: Sandhya Jain

Source: The Daily Pioneer

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  1. The Die is cast

    With only 41 seats of Lok Sabha remaining to be voted upon tomorrow , the die is cast
    Outcome of those 41 seats is unlikely to make much of a difference to who will form the next Government at the Centre
    If BJP falls short of 272 seats , ” Aya Ram , Gaya Ram ” horse-trading will settle the issue
    But what will send a loud and clear message across India is ,
    ” Who wins in Varanasi ? ”
    It is no more a question of Congress vs BJP
    Or , a question of David vs Goliath
    It is no more a question of choosing between , lesser of the two evils
    Even if AAP has made a few honest mistakes and occasionally , compromised on lofty principles , for the first time , people of Varanasi have a choice
    To choose between the least of the THREE EVILS !
    There are no ABSOLUTE standards by which to judge political parties
    There are only RELATIVE standards – and , even these keep shifting
    If you think , some of the AAP members – and even , some of its leaders – are susceptible to making immoral compromises , you are entitled to your opinion – which is your right
    And Arvind Kejriwal would be the first person to defend your right
    Let us ask ourselves ,

    ” Who is the Least Corrupt of the three ?
    Who do I deserve ?
    Who is likely to resign if he cannot fulfill his poll-promises ? ”

    BJP came into power in Gujarat on 26 Dec 2012 , by promising :
    ” If voted to power , we will construct 50 lakh houses for the poor in next 5 years ”
    In the 500 days since BJP came to power , Gujarat Government should have built , and distributed , 13,69,863 homes
    To find the truth , file a RTI application – without expecting any answer !
    Of course , by 20th May , expect NaMo to resign as Gujarat CM
    Not for having failed to fulfill his promise to people of Gujarat
    But , to fulfill his poll-promise to people of India , that , if voted to power , BJP will construct 100 Mega-Cities in next 5 years
    That is one Chandigarh or Gandhi-Nagar , every 18 days !
    Hopefully , P C Sorkar ( jr ) will help out with a Mirage !

    * hemen parekh ( 11 May 2014 / Mumbai )

    • Mr Hamen Parekh – the people of Varanasi have spoken.

      Now think for a second – how could any person who actually wants India to be governed properly support Kejriwal – who walked out on an important and powerful position in a matter of weeks? India knows this.

      Kejriwal started with good intentions, but even great men (and I don’t think Kejriwal classes in this category) get CHANGED by attention and the spotlight. He couldmn#y handle adulation and attention with an even head, and became drawn to attention seeking behaviour. It may be that in the future India gives him another chance, but I strongly believe it will be a long time away that he is forgiven for his shenanigans.

      Any snee person would chose a person with a consistent track record compared with a flaky attention seeker.

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