July 23, 2021 8:36:28 am
On Guru Purnima, Saturday, BJP leaders from Uttar Pradesh will visit temples and maths across Uttarakhand, straddling villages, towns and cities, to honour priests and gurus and seek their blessings for themselves as well as the party. The state party leadership has also directed district units to make a list of all the temples and maths in their respective areas and ask key office bearers and elected representatives to visit there to honour gurus and priests.
However, the party sought to dissociate the temple visits from the upcoming Assembly elections. BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said, “Our programme on Guru Purnima has no connection with the upcoming Assembly elections. The BJP has always respected and honoured gurus, sadhus, saints, temples and maths. Outside of politics, the BJP is steadfast in discharging its social responsibility of preserving our cultural and spiritual heritage. Guru Purnima is a day to respect gurus and we are doing that.”
However, even as the BJP sought to delink the temple visits from the polls scheduled early next year, party insiders said the ‘Guru Purnima Mahotsav’ has been timed to send out some political messages ahead of the critical electoral test next year. Since most of the priests and gurus at these temples and maths are Brahmins, the Mahotsav could be the BJP’s way of stealing a march over rivals Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress in reaching out to the community.
Secondly the priests and seers associated with these shrines have devotees not just in the state but spread far and wide and honouring them could fetch political dividends for the ruling party and translate into votes.
A party leader said the BJP has celebrated Guru Purnima in the past as well, with leaders visiting temples and maths to seek blessings of their gurus. “However, the celebration this time is being planned on a grand scale and in a more organised manner. Party leaders will even visit village temples. They will offer fruits and sweets at temples, honour priests and gurus with garlands and seek their blessings,” the leader said.
A party leader in Ayodhya, where a grand Ram temple is in the works, said that there are more than 5,000 small and big temples in the entire city but the party has identified only the prominent ones that draw large crowds of devotees. He added that the local party unit is in the process of drawing up a list of leaders, from those representing booth committees to key office bearers in the state, who would be asked to make temple visits.
“All the MLAs here are from our party and they will visit various temples on the same day (Guru Purnima). In rural areas, block and Zila panchayat leaders will lead similar programmes,” the leader said.
In the holy city of Varanasi, the party will hold “Guru Purnima Mahotsav” in each of the 90 municipal wards. A party leader in the city said, “Kashi has temples in every locality and street. Hence, we have identified the prominent maths and temples in each ward. Head priests of temples and gurus of maths will be honoured with ‘angavastra’, religious books, garlands, sweets and mementos in recognition and honour of their contribution to the society.”
In Varanasi Zila (rural), 50 temples have been identified for such visits.
A party leader said that a similar event on Guru Purnima was held in the state before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Before the 2017 Assembly polls, a BJP-supported Dhamma Chetna Yatra travelled across 403 Assembly constituencies to attract Dalit votes.