Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the silver jubilee celebrations of the Akshardham Teample in Ahmedabad, a religious event was held to mark the auspicious Kartik Poornima on Saturday at the Swaminarayan temple in Vadtal near Nadiad in Kheda district, in presence of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and other BJP leaders. The head priest of the temple hailed the BJP-led state government and appealed the devotees to vote for the BJP-led state government as the organisation is “forever indebted” to the incumbent state government.
At the event in the Vadtal Swaminarayan temple, which belongs to the Lakshmi Narayan Dev diocese of the sect, headed by acting-Acharya Rakesh Prasad Maharaj, the Mukhya Kothari (Chief Administrator) of the temple, Maharaj Ghanshyam Prasad Das made a fervent appeal to the devotees of the sect to vote the BJP government into power in the state. The event was attended by about 1700 priests from across Gujarat, where Ghanshyam Maharaj hailed Rupani and said that the organisation was “forever indebted” to the BJP-led government for having stood by it for over 15 years.
Refering to the preceding speech made by Acharya Rakesh Prasad, Maharaj Ghanshyam said, “Swamiji has told us about the history and work of the Vadtal organisation as well as the help it has received over the years from this government. This Vadtal organisation will forever be indebted to this government. This means we have to pay back this debt.”
“Right now, we have tied a safa (headgear) to Rupani saheb, but that does not pay for our debt. To pay for our debt we have to do a lot more. I want to make this certain and definite appeal to all the devotees who are sitting here, watching through the internet or TV. It is the fortune of the people to have a king who is pure, people-loving and a visionary… We have such a king. It is Narendra Modi.”
The Maharaj went on to say, “I never pray for myself (to God), but when I recite my prayers on the holy beads, each day of the 365 days of a year, I pray for the success of two people Acharya Rakesh Maharaj and Narendra Modiji… Narendra Modi should win. It is my appeal to all the devotees of the Swaminarayan sect–for 15 years, this government has gone out of its way to help us, stood by the Vadtal organisation, assisted in all things big and small. Remember, it is a truth-loving government. It is a corruption-free government. It has served Vadtal individually, as much as it has served the entire state.”
Also present were Cabinet Minister Nanu Vanani, Rohit Patel, MP Devusinh Chauhan, Gujarat Assembly Whip Pankaj Desai and Anand District BJP President Mahesh Patel. At the venue Rupani, who also delivered a short address, said, “The Model Code of Conduct is in place and therefore, I shall not say much about the government. But, I must say that I visit Vadtal whenever I can. It gives me immense inspiration to be here.”
Later, in a press note, the BJP stated that the priests of the eight Hindu holy pilgrimage places of Gujarat had backed the party’s ‘vijayrath’ for the upcoming polls due to its “development works” including the development of the eight holy shrines. Stating that “to preserve the culture of India, huge temples must be built”, the BJP statement quoted Rupani as saying, “Being in power in government a government is an instrument to serve (people). Since people look at this through the political lens, Prime Minister Narendra Modiji has said that I am not the Prime Minister, but the Pradhan Sevak. Similarly, I also state that I am not the King of Gujarat but a servant of Gujarat.”
When contacted District Election Officer, Kheda, Kuldeep Arya said, “An event at a religious institution, where a person belonging to the religious institution speaks about a political party or makes an appeal to the people does not amount to violation of the Model Code of Conduct, prima facie. The rule states that if the place of religious worship is used by a political party for campaigning or putting up banners or symbols that amount to campaigning, then it would be a violation of the Code. The appeal made by the priest in his personal capacity is not a breach. However, we have videographed the event and we shall refer it to the Chief Election Officer for advise and further action.”