iconimg Monday, March 30, 2015

Vinod Rajput and Pawan Dixit , Hindustan Times
Baghpat/Varanasi, March 30, 2014
Narendra Modi on Saturday declared 2014 the “year of the kamal (lotus) and Modi”, drawing flak for “being self-obsessed”. The same day, a BJP poster in Varanasi featuring a distorted shloka (couplet) — with Modi’s name inserted in place of Goddess Durga — caused an uproar. The developments came days after party workers coined a controversial slogan — ‘Har Har Modi’, replacing Lord Shiva’s name with that of the BJP PM candidate. After objections from Hindu religious leaders, including Dwarka peeth shankarachayra Swaroopanand Saraswati, Modi had last Sunday asked his followers not to use the slogan.

Read: After criticism, Modi tells supporters to stop 'har, har' chant

Speaking in Baghpat in UP, Modi compared the 2014 elections to the 1857 uprising against the British, saying, “The 1857 movement was for a British-free India and their slogan was kamal aur roti. The 2014 struggle is about a Congress-free India. 2014’s slogan is kamal aur Modi.”

“Modi is self-obsessed and wants a BJP-free India. It is me, my and myself for him. In fact, BJP leaders should ponder over his statement,” Congress spokesman Shobha Oza said. Party general secretary Digvijaya Singh added that the slogan was either BJP or Modi.

Read: 2014 will be the year of Lotus and Modi: Modi

In Varanasi, the shloka read “Ya Modi sarvabhuteshu, rashtrarupen sansthitah, namastasya, namastasya, namastasya, namo namah (Modi resides in the heart of countrymen and I bow to him repeatedly)”.

Read: Varanasi widows ask: Can Kejriwal or Modi do anything for the old and abandoned?

The BJP leader’s name replaced ‘Devi’ (referring to Durga) in the original shloka.

The shloka originates from the sacred Hindu text Durga Saptashati that praises the goddess in 700 verses, describing her battles with demons and her kindness to devotees.

The BJP poster, which first surfaced on Thursday, comes days before the nine-day Navratra festival dedicated to Durga begins on March 31.

The holy city of Varanasi is witnessing a blockbuster showdown between Modi, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari.

Read: Kejriwal enters Varanasi ring, challenges Modi for a verbal bout

Outraged by the verse, Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, representative of the Dwarka peeth shankaracharya, said, “The BJP and Modi are making a mockery of the Hindu religion. If the person claiming to lead the nation is making such mistakes again and again, it cannot be pardoned.”

“The people of Kashi will teach Modi a lesson in the elections,” said Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Yadav.