Anandpur (Katihar), Sep 18: For around 500 villagers in Anandpur in Bihar’s Katihar district near the Bengal border, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no less than God.
On Tuesday, the villagers installed a statue of the Prime Minister near that of Lord Hanuman’s in a makeshift temple to mark his 69th birthday even as the Opposition Congress claimed it was a ploy to dwarf chief minister Nitish Kumar ahead of the assembly elections in the state next year.
The installation of Modi’s statue was a thanksgiving gesture by the villagers, mostly migrant Bengali Hindus, for the overall development their village has undergone since 2014 after Narendra Modi took over as PM. The villagers including women and children gathered at the temple on Tuesday and celebrated Modi’s birthday by cutting a cake and wishing him health and fame.
“Ours was among the most under developed villages in the country that had not seen a metalled road since independence. Government officers ignored us and our pleas fell on deaf ears. But when we had given up all hopes, Prime Minister Modi rekindled them and gave our village smooth metalled roads besides electricity within two years. This is why he is no less than God for us and we have given him his rightful place in our local temple,” said village head (mukhiya) Lalan Vishwas (55).
Palo Devi, 50, a housewife said, “We are indeed happy to get such a leader like Modiji who believes in prosperity of the masses. We try to follow him in spirits. Hence, besides keeping our village neat and clean, we give special emphasis on sending our girls to schools and educate them.”
Another villager, Manoj Kumar Sah (35) wants a bigger temple dedicated to Modi. “We want a huge temple to be constructed in our village for Modiji as he is our God who has given us happiness.”
But the installation of the idol is not just hero worship of fawning villagers and they make no secret of its subtle political message to people in neighbouring Bengal. “We have received big support from our West Bengal brethren in our endeavour. They share mutual respect for the PM,” Lalan Vishwas said. “I hope the message will travel fast in West Bengal that Modiji works for the prosperity of the poor unlike other leaders.”
The villagers now want their God to visit them. “We want to see Modiji walk on our land,” they said.
In 2017 villagers of Kelabari Fulwaria village of Kasba block in Purnia adjacent to Muslim dominated Araria district had resolved to name their village after UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Though Yogi Adityanath Gram could not be named for a long time, it succeeded in polarizing voters in Muslim-dominated Seemanchal districts in Bihar helping BJP win Araria Lok Sabha seat and NDA win three out of four seats in Seemanchal in the 2019 general elections.
The villagers move to install Modi’s idol holds significance for BJP as Seemanchal comprising four districts Purnia, Kishanganj, Araria and Katihar has substantial number of Muslims ranging from 35 % to 70%.
Bihar state Congress party spokesperson B K Thakur described it as a ‘calculated move’ of the BJP when the NDA is heading towards a split in the state. “BJP wants to dwarf Nitish Kumar through such moves and cash in on Modi’s popularity,” he said.
The BJP denies there is politics behinf Modi’s statue. Anand Bharti , a BJP leader in Purnia said, “One should not look for any political motive behind the villagers’ faith towards their new found God. They are revering Modi because they find in him a social reformer and a divine power who has transformed their lives.” In 2015 assembly elections in Seemanchal JD-U and Congress had bagged 6 seats each and RJD and BJP had got 5 seats each while one seat had gone in favour of CPI (ML). Seemanchal has total 23 assembly seats.