Hindutva is backdrop for Narendra Modi in UP

LucknowModi at the Vijay Shankhnand rally in Varanasi on Friday

For the first time since Narendra Modi began his Uttar Pradesh campaign two months ago, the BJP's agenda of Hindutva came to overwhelmingly dominate an election meeting on Friday. The rally that the party's prime ministerial candidate addressed in Varanasi was replete with words, gestures and imagery of Hindutva, and suggested that he might have decisively shifted gears as the campaign approaches the home stretch.

It is essential that the BJP does well in UP, which sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha, if it is to have a realistic chance of leading the next government.

The backdrop to the dais at the rally ground was provided by several pictures of temples and Dashashwamedh Ghat where serial blasts took place in 2005, and two of Lord Shiva in his tandav pose. On top of the stage were three replicas of Varanasi's Kashi Vishwanath temple, which is one of the 12 jyotirlingas of Hindu mythology.

Modi, accompanied by party president Rajnath Singh and other leaders, visited the Kashi Vishwanath and Sankat Mochan temples before coming to the rally in the Raja Talab area on the outskirts of Varanasi. They spent about 20 minutes at each temple.

Shankhs (conch shells) were blown as Modi climbed the dais. Sounds of the shells kept ringing in the audience as he spoke. "I have come from the land of Somnath to seek the blessings of Baba Vishwanath," Modi told the 1.5 lakh strong crowd.

For some 20 minutes of his 45-minute speech, Modi spoke on the Ganga, the lifeline of Varanasi. He targeted the UPA government for not checking the pollution in the river, and declared that if the Sabarmati could be cleaned up, so could the "Ganga maiyya".

He exhorted the voters of UP to help usher in Ram rajya. "Ram rajya does not require money. It requires a culture that the people of UP have inherited from their ancestors," Modi said. "But the problem here is that you have chosen wrong governments and wrong leaders."

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