Vijaya Dashami aka Dussehra or Ayudhapuja is celebrated across India for victory of good over evil. It is the day Hindu God Rama slayed Ravana in a symbolic victory of truth over false. The day also marks the victory of Durga over the demon Mahishasura. The goddess fought with evil for ten days and nine nights.
This Dussehra, breaking from tradition, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi will attend the historic Aishbagh Ramlila at Lucknow. He has announced that this year's Vijaya Dashami is "very special" for the country, an apparent reference to the Indian Army's surgical strikes on terror launch pads across Line of Control. He stressed that a "very capable" armed forces is a must for a strong nation.
It's been ten days since the surgical strikes conducted by the Indian armed forces in the terror camps across enemy lines in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. Modi's announcement has raised speculation that the 'Vijaya Dashami' celebration would mark the BJP's victory in the LoC arena, since the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh will witness the prime minister's first major public appearance since the Indian government's stringent military actions.
"We will celebrate Vijaya Dashami in the coming days. This year's Vijaya Dashami is very special for the country," Modi announced, evoking a thunderous applause from the audience at a function at Vigyan Bhavan.
In a veiled reference to Pakistan, Modi said, "Being strong does not mean being against anyone. If we exercise for our strength, then the neighbour need not worry (thinking) that it is to target him. I am exercising to strengthen myself and for my health."
Modi is positioning the surgical strikes as a BJP initiative
On 18 September, the Pakistani militants attacked an Indian camp near LoC and slayed 19 soldiers in Uri. Soon after the attack, PM Modi sent out a tweet saying that that those behind the attacks will not be spared.
Modi's immediate response to the attack was measured. He offered condolences to the families of soldiers who lost their lives, condemned the terror attack and assured the nation that those behind the attack will be punished. “We salute all those martyred in Uri. Their service to the nation will always be remembered. My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” he tweeted.
But a few days later, at a BJP council meet in Kozhikode in Kerala, Modi gave his first public speech after Uri and slammed Pakistan for its refusal to take actions against those responsible.
Addressing the BJP national conclave in Kozhikode, Modi said, “There is only one country in Asia that indulges in terrorism and exporting it around the world. Terrorism is humanity’s enemy and India will never forget the 18 martyred soldiers who were killed by terrorists in Uri.”
His Mann ki Baat address too evoked the Uri attack.
The systematic reminders of Uri in the run-up to the surgical strikes by Indian armed forces, gave Modi a major political clout akin to the Kargil war enhancing Vajpayee’s image and the 1971 war making Indira Gandhi a popular choice. Domestically Modi's mage has been enhanced as a decisive leader and his Dussehra appearance seems to be a well-placed endeavour to place him in the limelight.
Major political parties have questioned the surgical strikes and their existence. Parties like Congress, Aam Aadmi Party accused BJP of using the surgical strike as a political tool to enhance its image. However the BJP has strayed away from overtly using the strikes as a political tool. Amit Shah and Ravindra Prasad have also come out openly to appeal to people from politicising India's defense situation. The party has also reprimanded its own leaders for doing the same.
However history shows, whenever there is a war, it's not difficult not sniff out the next elections.
Political atmosphere in Uttar Pradesh; SP, BSP, Congress nervous of BJP win
BSP president Mayawati, who is a popular choice for the CM seat in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, didn't take too well to Modi's announcement to visit Lucknow and attend Dussehra celebrations. She claims Modi's actions are "politically motivated" and the event should have been toned down taking into account the loss suffered by the families of soldiers killed in the deadly Uri terror attack.
"The pyre of jawans who lost their lives in the Uri attack has not yet died down, but the Prime Minister is coming to Lucknow to celebrate Dussehra for his political motives," Mayawati said at a recent rally.
"It is likely that for the same purpose, he (Modi) might come to UP for Diwali as well. Taking the loss of the Uri martyrs' families into account, BJP should have celebrated Dussehra and Diwali with sobreity and simplicity," she said.
"The BJP has been forced to bring Modi to Lucknow to Dussehra mela so that he can put forth his views at a religious congregation...It has been forced to indulge in politics of religion," she said.
Apprehensive of possible efforts to "cash in" on cross-border terrorism in the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Punjab, Mayawati said hysteria of war between India and Pakistan may be churned up to "divert attention from failures" of the central government.
"There is a feeling among people that this could have been delayed for taking political and electoral mileage," she said.
On the other hand, the Shiv Sena claims that Modi's plan to celebrate Dussehra in Lucknow will not yield the BJP any political benefits in poll-bound UP, which may go on to repeat a Bihar for them.
"The Opposition is scared that if Modi visits UP, there will be a political atmosphere created there. But Modi should visit Lucknow and announce that he has not come there to reap any political gains but to announce the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya," the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana.
"During the polls, the BJP in Bihar had put at stake Modi's image and had got the entire Council of ministers at the Centre to campaign for the party. Yet, the party was decimated. If this fact is taken into consideration, there will be no reason to believe the party will reap any political benefits out of Modi's Lucknow event," the Sena said.
The Samajwadi Party which has been in the papers for the ongoing family feud, on Sunday, took credit for the surgical strike carried out by the Indian armed forces. A local Samajwadi party leader put up hoardings in Muzaffarnagar claiming that Modi ordered the surgical strikes against Pakistan only after consulting SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Tuesday's Dussehra celebration will turn another leaf in the Uttar Pradesh politics. All major Indian political parties are clamouring to gain popularity in the state and currently Modi has the golden ticket.
With inputs from agencies