He may have proposed “Pehle Shauchalay, baad mein devalaya” (Toilets first, temples later), but a Rs 60-crore Shakti Pith Pran Prathistha Mohotsav (inauguration of replica of 50 Shakti Piths located across the Indian sub-continent) at the biggest Hindu religious place — Ambaji in Banaskantha district — has become the biggest launchpad for Narendra Modi’s prime Ministerial campaign in Gujarat.
The Gujarat Government justified the move saying, “it is due to Modi’s efforts that
temple has attracted more pilgrims”.
In the array of publicity material by the organiser Shree Arasuri Ambaji Devsthan Trust including glossy booklets and invitation cards for the event slated for February 11 to 13 Modi’s name and photographs find a prominent place. And, a fleet of 10 motorised vehicles — Shakti Rath — which has more Modi pictures than of the temple,will cover nearly 10,000 km from February 1 to 11 taking Modi’s message across the length and breadth of the state. The total publicity expenditure has been put at Rs 2 crore.
Ambaji is one of the 51 Shakti Piths(deity’s seat) in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The Gujarat Government, under its tourism policy, has encouraged construction of replicas of the other 50 Shakti Piths in a 2.5 km stretch in the vicinity of Ambaji Temple. A major pilgrimage centre for the Hindus, several lakhs are expected to attend inauguration ceremony presided over by Modi on February 13 in this border area where BJP has always politically struggled.
A fleet of 10 trucks have fanned across Gujarat to tell people about the project and invite them for the function. But on the exterior of the decorated trucks Modi is more visible than the temple. And when the trucks go to various constituencies, the local BJP MPs, MLAs and other leaders will be present to welcome it.
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“The total expenditure occurred for Shakti Raths and other publicity is around 2 crore,’’ said an official from Tourism Department.
When pointed out that the Shakti Rathi is more like publicity vehicle for Modi than function, tourism minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja said, “It is because of the efforts of the Chief Minister that the number of tourists and pilgrims at Ambaji have increased’’.