Late shehnai maestro Bharat Ratna Bismillah Khan’s family has refused to participate in the nomination process of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from Varanasi. However, the family members of the maestro, who has been integral to Varanasi’s rich cultural heritage, said they were always available to perform at any of the party’s programme if asked. They were concerned about music and did not want to have anything to do with politics, said family members.
Meanwhile, renowned Hindustani classical singer Padma Bhushan Chhannu Lal Mishra, has agreed to be Modi’s proposer.
Former Allahabad High Court judge, Justice Girdhar Malviya, grandson of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, too, has agreed to be the proposer.
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Reports about tea shop owner Vishwanath Singh, known as the famous Pappu Chai wala at Assi ghat in Varanasi, also being a proposer has neither been confirmed nor denied by the BJP.
The BJP leaders maintained the final list of proposers would be formally announced by Tuesday evening. They claimed there may be minor changes because only four proposers could be accommodated and nearly 10 names were being considered.
Modi files nomination on April 24. Incidentally, Modi’s road show plans, which include garlanding statues of Malviyaji at Banaras Hindu University and Swami Vivekanand, for that day have been finalised.
Talking to The Indian Express over phone, Affaq Haider, one of the grandsons of Bismillah Khan, who organises programmes during the birth anniversary and death anniversary of the maestro, said: “We got call from BJP leaders on April 16. Initially, my father, Zamin Hussain Khan, and I thought it was an invitation for a musical performance. We met them and were told that Modi wanted us to be a proposer. We told them that the entire family will have to be consulted. Following consultations, we told them in writing that we are into music and not politics. My grandfather belonged to entire India, not because he was from a particular party, but because of his music. However, we are available for Modi; we welcome him as a guest; we will perform if the BJP asks us to. If he wants to meet us or visit Khan Sahab’s grave, we are all ready.”
Haider added he decided to inform the press on the matter after reports appeared in certain sections of the media that his family could be a proposer for Modi.
Justice Malviya, who is also a patron of Ganga Mahasabha, established by his grandfather, said: “When this proposal came from the BJP, I accepted it readily. Of late, the Leftists have created this wrong impression that if we talk about our cultural heritage, we are reactionaries. I have been hearing Modi’s speeches; he has been talking of taking everybody along. I cannot join politics at this stage, but as an intellectual I want to extend support to a man who is not into vote bank politics and talks of sarvdharm sambhav (treating all religions as equal).”
Justice Malviya’s father, Pandit Govind Malviya, was the youngest son of Mahamana and was a Congress MP from Sultanpur when he died in 1961.
Classical music exponent Mishra told The Indian Express that he agreed because Modi was the one to remember him first. “We are from music world. We are not into politics. It is also not an endorsement of a particular party. Had Sonia Gandhi (Congress president), or Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi party supremo) remembered me first, I would have agreed to accompany them. Mujhe jo jaisa bhajta hai, main usko waisa bhajta hoon (I treat others in the same way, as they treat me).”
Confirming the consents of Mishra and Justice Malviya, Varanasi Mayor Ram Gopal Mohle of BJP, who had approached a few personalities in this regard, said: “There are four aspects of Varanasi’s heritage, which we want to be associated with: Ganga, Mahamana (Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya), sangeet (music) Sangeet and bunkar (weavers)”. He added as far as Ganga was concerned, a nishad (boatman) was likely to be added in the list of proposers. A weaver was also being considered.
BJP’s election office incharge in Varanasi Ashok Dhawan said: “We want that people representing the cultural heritage of Varanasi should become proposers. However, the final list would be out by Tuesday evening.”