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TOI EDIT-Idol Versus Idol Oh for a Modi-Gandhi faceoff in Varana

April 20, 2019 05:34 AM


Idol Versus Idol
Oh for a Modi-Gandhi faceoff in Varanasi
Will she, won’t she? Priyanka Gandhi, Congress general secretary, has dropped hints about contesting from Varanasi, and party chief Rahul Gandhi has kept us guessing. If Priyanka takes the fight to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi, it would make for great political theatre. If power is stagecraft, Modi needs no lessons in it. Fighting from Varanasi in 2014 was his attempt to consolidate the “Hindu hriday samrat”

pageantry. It was the BJP’s claim on a place that has been a sacred centre of Hindu pilgrimage for centuries.

Priyanka represents a different worldview – one that casts today’s India as a tangle of many cultures. Varanasi, after all, cannot be summed up in a single story – it is not concentrated in an icon, the whole city is held sacred, and mirrored across India by other Kashis. It is said to be the spot of Shiva’s jyotirlinga, it is teeming with traditions of Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, it has legendary Muslim tombs and subaltern festivals and heroes.

If the “icons” of the two parties were to face off in Varanasi, it would lend itself to being read as a grand struggle between two ideas of India. But at a mundane level it is just Congress and BJP competing for Varanasi, as they always have. There is a crew of other candidates too, all addressing the various worldly concerns of citizens. While Gandhi and Modi are well-matched rivals, let’s remember that Varanasi is a living city, not just a timeless symbol

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