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Events and emotions can sway an electorate

Chitra Narayanan Lucknow | Updated on February 23, 2018 Published on February 23, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing CEOs and entrepreneurs during the UP Investors Summit 2018.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

An image from the Maha Kumbh mela in Allahabad in March 2013.   -  THE HINDU

The UP investors’ summit in Lucknow was just a chhota kumbh. Get ready for a blockbuster Kumbh Mela 2019 in election year

Somebody likened the just concluded UP Investors’ Meet 2018, which drew 6,000 delegates and 120 speakers from 10 countries and 32 sessions packed with emotive appeals, to a business kumbh mela. Despite the towering presence of the Prime Minister, the President and over 20 Cabinet ministers, the summit will still be a small do compared to Kumbh Mela 2019, which, going by clues provided at this event, is going to be the real blockbuster event.

All through the UP Summit, Prayag 2019 was subtly but consistently marketed to the attendees. As somebody remarked, events and emotions are key to capturing an electorate and Kumbh 2019, to be held next January, could be a potential game-changer in an election year. If the Kumbh 2019 logo was prominently displayed everywhere during the Summit, then the Prime Minister himself, during his inaugural address on Wednesday, referenced it, setting the stage for India’s biggest cultural gathering. “The Kumbh Mela to be organised next year at Prayag will be the largest such event of its kind in the world,” he proclaimed, exhorting Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to ensure that visitors from every country in the world were drawn in.

On Thursday, talking to presspersons, Piyush Goyal, Minister of Railways, highlighted how the Railways was gearing up for the Kumbh Mela by working on upgrading five stations near Allahabad. “We anticipate that at least 15 crore pilgrims will attend the Kumbh Mela at Prayag Raj. For that, Allahabad, plus two stations on each side of the city, are being upgraded. Member Railways has himself been entrusted with the responsibility to handle this task and been asked to do it in “mission mode”, he said.

The speed and urgency was evident everywhere. The UP government appears to be working towards a plan to develop infrastructure in Allahabad very rapidly. As somebody at the event remarked, “Allahabad mein Akbar ke zamane ke jaisa development ho raha hai.

An image from the Maha Kumbh mela in Allahabad in March 2013.   -  THE HINDU

 

While many felt that the focus on Kumbh was subtly shifting the spotlight away from Ayodhya and yet keeping the Hindutva agenda alive, surprisingly there was much investor interest around the town at the heart of the Ram Janambhoomi temple issue as well, during the summit. A few hoteliers evinced interest in acquiring land and building hotels in Ayodhya, where one of the projects announced during the summit was a theme-based entertainment park.

The UP government’s tourism policy thrust appeared to be centred around religious tourism. And several projects, including a floating hotel on the Ganges in Varanasi, and a Rs 200-crore resort by the Mahindra Group, were announced. However, it is Kumbh 2019 that is the immediate priority and focus of the UP government as well as the Centre. As the Prime Minister told Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during the inaugural address, now that Kumbh has been declared a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage, he should leverage it. It may be recalled that the Maha Kumbh at Ujjain, which brought in huge infrastructure development to the ancient city as well as Indore, strengthened the position of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan administration.

If the BJP government can pull off a successful Kumbh Mela and win the hearts of the 22 crore people of Uttar Pradesh, which is one-sixth the population of India, then a quarter of the job for the 2019 elections is done.

Published on February 23, 2018
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