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PM, Gandhis take time out to pay tribute to Guru Ravidas | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: PM Modi on Wednesday offered prayers at the ‘Shri Guru Ravidas Vishram Dham Mandir’ in Karol Bagh in the capital on the occasion of Ravidas Jayanti, and paid generous tribute to the Bhakti saint at his Pathankot rally. At Sitapur in UP, his next stop, a huge portrait of the saint, who was born a Dalit and enjoys huge following among a big section of SCs, perhaps most importantly in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, formed the backdrop of the dais.
Just like at Pathankot, the PM said his government exemplified the pro-poor vision of Ravidas. The day also saw Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi offering obeisance at Govardhanpeeth in Varanasi, the saint’s birthplace where a big community hall has been constructed at the instance of the PM, the local MP. Charanjit Singh Channi, Punjab’s first Dalit CM, also took time off his hectic electioneering schedule and flew down to Varanasi to register his own mark of respect for Guru Ravidas.
The saint, whose sayings are recited by people in the north irrespective of caste,indeed loomed large on the electoral landscape, the across-the-aisle recognition reflecting the importance of the Dalit vote in UP and Punjab and marking his entry in the national pantheon.
In Punjab, Congress’s prospect of holding on to office depend largely on Channi’s success in pulling in Dalit votes, especially the Ravidasis, the followers of Raidas who account for one-third of the SC population in the state. Ravidasis, also known as Jatavs, have a big presence in UP and have been the single-most impor- tant factor in BSP’s success. Though they still constitute the core of Mayawati’s base, the campaign has been marked by speculation about whether asection of them could be open to supporting BJP, especially in constituencies where BSP does not seem to be well placed to defeat their main opponent, Samajwadi Party.
The political class signalled the recognition of the saint as a rallying point for Dalits when they bowed to his followers who took to the streets to protest against the demolition of Ravidas temple unau- thorisedly constructed on public land in the capital, and forced the government, and also the court, to retrace their steps and rebuild the structure. Likewise, in an unusual move, the Election Commission deferred the date of elections in Punjab to February 20 to enable the saint’s followers to visit Varanasi on the occasion of his birth anniversary.
Ravidas fits in well also with the Sangh Parivar’s scheme to draw the Dalits back to the larger saffron-fold, with the RSS leadership seeing the reverence for him as a bulwark against both conversion and radicalisation by Ambedkarites, some of whom are open about aligning with political Islamists.
Much to the surprise of the devotees at the temple in the capital on Wednesday, Modi joined them with fervour by playing the ‘Jheeka’ in tune with the songs that were sung in obeisance to the saint. He also shared the video of the “special moments” at the temple. His couplets are part of the everyday conversation in large parts of north India and are said to have found their way into the holy books of Sikhs and devotional literature.

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