Mandate 2024, Ep 1: Inside BJP’s mandir politics in UP, and Sangh role

Sreenivasan Jain visits Meerut in the first part of the six-episode series comparing reality with rhetoric in poll battlegrounds.
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Politicians take on many roles. The benevolent patriarch, the diligent everyman, the formidable protector. 

But in a corner of one of India’s largest states, a fledgling politician is trying something new – linking himself directly to the divine, a personification of a god whose name is now a rallying cry for the right-wing in India. 

Welcome to episode 1 of Mandate 2024:  Claim Vs Reality with Sreenivasan Jain, a six-part series that contrasts truth with lie in the biggest electoral battlegrounds. 

This week, Sreenivasan heads to Meerut, where one man insists that a vote for him is a vote for “faith towards Lord Ram”. That man is Arun Govil, a first-time politician who’s still a household name after playing the starring role in Doordarshan’s 1980s hit Ramayan series. He stands at the centre of a concerted effort by the Sangh Parivar to drive votes in the name of the mandir, a campaign built on the ruins of a 16th-century mosque.

But rhetoric isn’t reality, papering religion over a government’s other inadequacies. But the BJP laid the groundwork for this crusade decades ago – and the fruit of its labours can now be seen through Govil.

Sreenivasan speaks to Govil on the campaign trail, and hops on to a BJP campaign truck to speak to party workers about Govil’s candidacy and Ram as the poll plank. He also reaches out to election commission officials on appeals for vote in the name of religion, and catches up with a self-professed RSS worker, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s national spokesperson and its Meerut officials to get a peek into their groundwork.

A look at why the mandir trope works in Uttar Pradesh – which lags behind on several parameters, from human development index to health and employment. 


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