The Mahakumbha being celebrated at the Triveni Sangam in the city of Allahabad in North India is famous as a once in twelve year congregation of religious leaders and devotees aspiring for moksha (salvation). But the gathering also has a less famous aspect. It is a carnival where charlatans of all ilks hawk their wares.
Two events have highlighted this secular side of the Mahakumbha. The first involved two posters, one of Congress president Sonia Gandhi carrying infant Rahul on her back in the garb of Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, a figure of India’s first War of Independence in 1857, and another of her son, Rahul as the Lord of death and destruction, Shiva.
The second was the meeting of saints canvassing for Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate.
The two sycophants-proclaimed leaders in 2014 prime ministerial stakes may discover that the voters are smarter than the TV anchors and print media who are painting 2014 polls as Modi versus Gandhi showdown.
Rahul Gandhi has been a disaster as a politician so far. He has failed to galvanise the party and attract the voters. In fact the Congress was routed in the assembly constituencies in UP that are part of the Gandhis’ parliamentary constituencies. The Lord of destruction similie may turn out to be true, but the only thing the Lord of Congress may annihilate could be the party itself. Like supporters of Mitt Romney, Rahul’s followers may fancy his chances. But unlike Romney supporters, they wouldn’t have Superstorm Sandy to blame.
Thanks to Arvind Kejriwal’s assaults, the mother-son duo has suddenly realised that middle-class urban India is losing faith in them. To compound their problems, their rural focus has not been as big a success as they thought. Finance minister P Chidambaram’s veiled criticism of debt-driven egalitarianism will make things difficult for the Congress to try and attract fiscally-handicapped voters by splurging on them. Rahul may also find that India’s young are not looking for a youth leader but one who can deliver good governance.
This is where the man who carries the stigma of being associated with one of the most heinous massacres of innocents in post-Independence India at Godhra fancies his chances.
Gujarat was the first trading post in India of the British East India Company. It was where the prelude to the story of the Indian golden bird getting plucked was written. Narendra Modi is trying to trade up from Gandhinagar to New Delhi. He is selling his growth model but whether voters outside Gujarat, who value intangible communal harmony more than tangible economic prosperity, will buy it is debatable. Most Indians still remember what the traders from England did to the country as rulers and have an inherent distrust of the money-minded. Modi is seeking validation from the West because he thinks that he shares a common adversary with the erstwhile crusaders.
People from all over the world are welcomed and there is no discrimination. It teaches us to live and let live, learn and unlearn, be broad minded and assimilative.
Even in Gujarat Modi’s desire and efforts to uplift the downtrodden are suspect. He has failed to solve the irrigation woes of the poor farmers. Modi may pat himself for absence of communal riots but his administration turned a blind eye even as the Bt cotton farmers in Gujarat employed children abducted from neighbouring states.
Mahakumbha is a confluence of ideas and ideologies. People from all over the world are welcomed and there is no discrimination. It teaches us to live and let live, learn and unlearn, be broad minded and assimilative. These attributes are hard to find in the two pretenders to the prime ministerial throne. India has miles to go when it comes to political salvation.