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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Ravidass Camp: In Delhi slum, the wait for Amit Shah — and Mann Ki Baat

BJP will organise many booth-level sessions starting this month across the country, taking Modi’s Mann Ki Baat to the people.

Written by Sowmiya Ashok | New Delhi | Published: May 29, 2017 3:11:35 am
At Ravidass Camp on Sunday. Abhinav Saha

Leelavati Sharma rushed home as soon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed off from Mann Ki Baat on Sunday morning. Her nephew, Kamlender, had asked her to prepare a meal. “It’s possible that the BJP Delhi president Manoj Tiwari may drop in at home,” he had told his aunt, leaving her in a state of panic. Like everyone else at Ravidass Camp adjoining the Guru Ravidass Dham in R K Puram, she too had assembled in the large hall adjoining the temple to await the arrival of BJP chief Amit Shah by 10 am. It was the first of many booth-level sessions that the Bharatiya Janata Party will organise starting this month across the country, taking Modi’s Mann Ki Baat — his radio sessions scheduled once a month on the last Sunday — to the people.

This Sunday, Modi’s radio message was “Rashtriya Shiksha, Amit Shah ke Saath” — imparted to the residents of Ravidass Camp, in the presence of Shah, who was flanked by state BJP leaders. To his left sat Member of Parliament Meenakshi Lekhi, former MLA Anil Sharma and former Congress legislator Barkha Singh, who recently joined the BJP. To his right was a combination of national and state party leaders. In front of them, on the table, was a transistor, which Shah fiddled with around 11 am in a symbolic attempt to turn it on.

But, the Prime Minister’s voice boomed from a larger screen a little away from where Shah sat. “It will perhaps be difficult for us to forget the year’s summer. But, we are now awaiting the rains,” Modi began. The temperatures were touching the 40 degrees inside the hall, the coolers were in full blast, and Modi conveyed his “hearty greetings” for the advent of the holy month of Ramzan. “Prayer, spirituality and charity are accorded the highest priority during Ramzan. We, Indians, are very lucky that our ancestors have created such a tradition that today India and and its 1.25 billion people can take pride in the fact that people from all communities and faith are available here,” he said. “This is a country where both theists and atheists; idolaters and those loathing idol-worship co-exist.”

For the next 30 minutes, he spoke of various things, including the birth anniversary of Veer Savarkar, yoga, and the upcoming World Environment Day, interspersed by two recorded phone calls from young people. The residents of Ravidass Camp applauded when he mentioned cleanliness drives in Mumbai and Jammu and Kashmir.

So did Suman Jha, a mother of three, who had brought all her children to listen to Modi. “This is the first time I am seeing Amit Shah but we have heard Modi speak every month,” she said. “They (BJP workers) came twice this past week to remind us to assemble here this morning.”

As the crowd dispersed after Modi had wrapped up, Shah visited the adjoining temple, garlanded a statue of B R Ambedkar and then left the premises. Meanwhile, Leelavati had laid out her plan for lunch: arhar daal, sitaphal sabzi, chawal, roti, and salad, and while her niece prepared the rotis, she stood at the entrance to her small one-room house, looking to see if Tiwari was anywhere in sight. “I was told he will be coming, so I rushed home. Maybe he isn’t coming after all,” she said.

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