Millennium Post

Shifting paradigms

The battle for India has somehow been transcribed onto a battle for Varanasi. It is the much-touted seat from which BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is contesting, at least one of the two constituencies, the other being one in Gujarat. With AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal also conjectured to take on Modi from the same place, it seems Varanasi, till now a sacred site associated with Hindu religion, would replace many other images and metaphors for Indian politics. The choice of Varanasi, on one hand, could rewrite the contours of Hindu politics and the saffron camp, and become an attempt to cleanse the past taints linked to Ayodhya and hardline cultural nationalism of the BJP brigade. On the other hand, it could even become a reiteration of the old-style politics and a consolidation of strong Hindu votes for Modi in this ‘holy city’ by River Ganga. Inasmuch as Varanasi has been handpicked to become the new determinant and battle turf that would go a long way to define Indian politics, nationalism and other markers for at least the next five years, it would serve Narendra Modi perfectly to bolster his poll prospects. Modi, in turn, would help shower political relevance to a city that had been otherwise consigned to act as a picturesque backdrop to interests as diverse as religious tourism and religious fascism. Yet, what it could also do is to infuse the 2014 poll battle with a sense of carnivalesque, act as a fairground where political rites of passage and electoral baptisms would be conducted with great fanfare. Some are even hopeful that Varanasi might just pen the ‘secular’ chapter of Indian politics. Conjectures notwithstanding, at least the paradigmatic shift in Indian political theatre is now more than obvious.
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