Prime Minister Narendra Modi is breaking another trend — that of heads of government celebrating Dussehra in the national capital. He is likely to spend the evening of October 11 at the Aishbagh Ramlila Samiti ground of Lucknow, the capital of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma has extended the invitation to the Prime Minister. Though the written acceptance is yet to be sent, the Prime Minister’s Office has informally conveyed that Modi was likely to attend the Ramleela programme at Lucknow.
This will be the first time that an Indian Prime Minister will be celebrating the festival at Lucknow. Though former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Lucknow, which was his Lok Sabha constituency five times, he too never attended Dussehra celebrations in this 1807 Ramlila ground of the city.
Modi, an MP from Varanasi, will be spending 90 minutes at the venue in Lucknow. This comes at a time when the BJP is gearing up for the crucial UP assembly polls early next year. This will also be his first visit to the state after the surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC), which have raised the hopes of the BJP rank and file in UP. Party leaders said people see Modi as a hero who has lived up to their expectations. Though the party leaders have been asked to restrain from chest-thumping, the BJP is like to cash in on the Centre’s response to the Uri attack.
Home minister Rajnath Singh, who represents the Lucknow seat, has called upon the people of the state to end the BJP’s 14-year exile from power, apparently drawing parallels to the period when Lord Rama had to suffer exile, as per the mythological tale around which Dussehra revolves.
Besides, the Prime Minister has been trying to send the message that he wanted to change the tradition of Delhi being the Centre of major events. So far, he has done this mostly on the diplomatic front. The move began with bilaterals with visiting world dignitaries. He now plans to summit-level meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Goa later this month. The Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) summit will also be held in Goa on those dates. Vajpayee had also met Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf outside Delhi in 2001, when they held talks in Agra.
Modi has been celebrating Diwali too outside Delhi. The first Dussehra after he came to power was made an apolitical affair with Modi sharing the dais with Opposition leaders Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan.