Breaking from tradition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the historic Aishbagh Ramlila in Lucknow on Dussehra next week, seen as yet another attempt to connect to the people of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. BJP vice president and Lucknow Mayor Dinesh Sharma, who is also the Ramlila’s patron, said Modi has accepted his invitation to attend the October 11 event, which dates back to the times of Hindu saint Tulsidas.
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The Prime Minister will participate in the ‘aarti’ and then fire the symbolic arrow to burn the effigy of demon king Ravana, he said. Usually, the Prime Ministers have celebrated the festival in the national capital. Modi’s visit assumes an added significance because of assembly polls due next year in Uttar Pradesh where the saffron party is making a concerted bid to come back to power after a gap of 15 years and is up against ruling Samajwadi Party and main opposition Mayawati-led BSP.
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The Aishbagh Ramlila is also seen as a symbol of pluralistic culture, also called ‘Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb’, as Muslim rulers patronised it and allotted it space equal to Eidgah, which is situated right next to it. In the absence of strong regional leaders, BJP is again banking on Modi’s appeal to power its campaign in the state, which it swept in the Lok Sabha polls riding on a national wave in his support but where it is perceived to have slipped since.
The party had earlier said that Modi will be in the state every month before the campaign picks up when he is expected to address rallies and attend more events. In May, he had launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana from Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia under which cooking gas would be provided to poor families in the country. During his July visit, he laid the foundation stones for an AIIMS and a fertilizer plant in Gorakhpur.