Modi will visit Kumbh, but only after VHP meet ends

Narendra Modi

Highly placed BJP sources Tuesday confirmed that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting the Maha Kumbh at Allahabad, but after the VHP completes its religious congregation. While BJP president Rajnath Singh is slated to participate in the Kumbh on Wednesday, Modi is likely to attend on February 12.

This will be Modi's first visit to a Hindu pilgrimage site since he became CM. And it holds significance in the wake of the RSS-BJP-VHP meeting last week where a decision was taken to emphasise their Hindutva commitment against the "vote-bank politics" of the Congress, particularly after Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's Hindu terror remarks.

"Hindtuva and good governance are our key differentiators to the Congress. We have to highlight both," a BJP source said after the meeting. Modi's Kumbh visit appears to be part of this tightrope balancing act between the two planks, as he remains in the hunt for the prime ministership.

"His entire effort since 2002 has been to present himself as a mascot of good governance. He has to maintain the image of Hindu Hriday Samrat without eclipsing this new image," a BJP national executive member said.

The timing of Modi's Kumbh visit is also being seen as crucial in this, coming six days after the VHP's February 6-7 religious congregation. In fact, even as the VHP's Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal meets at the Kumbh on February 6, the CM that day will be dwelling on "modern governance model" at Delhi's SRCC college.

This dancing around the issue of Modi as PM is also visible on the VHP side. Asked about VHP leader Ashok Singhal's open backing for Modi, Pravin Togadia struggled for words Tuesday. "We favour a Hindutvavadi Parliament sensitive to the majority community's needs," was all that he told reporters.

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