The government is planning to hold an annual national cultural festival in Delhi as well as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi this year to showcase the city’s heritage ahead of polls in Uttar Pradesh, sources said on Friday.
The Centre wants to use the week-long Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav in Varanasi to tackle Opposition criticism that the BJP was neglecting its poll promises to the city, especially in areas of cleanliness and development of ghats. Till now, the festival was held only in the Capital.
“The issue was discussed in a meeting and it was decided that apart from Delhi, another city should be selected and considering Varanasi has rich cultural heritage it was short-listed. The festival is likely to run for a week,” said a source.
Artists from across India will participate in the festival that is aimed at showcasing folk arts and likely to be held in October.
Sources said people from Varanasi had suggested the move to culture minister Mahesh Sharma during his visit to the city. The first Saturday of every month is spent listening to people’s problems in the area.
“All the seven zonal cultural centres of the country are likely to participate in this mahotsav. More than 500 artists are likely to perform. Right from the Sahitya Akademi, Natak Akademi, and other organisations will participate in the festival which will be held at various locations in the city,” said a senior official from the culture ministry.
If held in Varanasi, the festival would be part of the BJP’s broader plan to reach out to the politically significant state, where the party is looking to trounce regional rivals and return to power after more than a decade.
The government has been emphasising on highlighting the rich culture and heritage of the city and the festival is aimed at achieving the same target.
“Preserving and documenting the cultural diversity through its popularisation among the new generation and involving them through various forms of active participation is a significant dimension of this festival,” said a senior official.
The ministry wants to showcase to the country and the world its soft power of unity in diversity. This is the second time that such a festival is being held to highlight the cultural richness of India.