Mohan Bhagwat to stay in Varanasi centre meant for state weavers and artisans, controversy follows

By Siddhant Mohan,

Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is scheduled to arrive in Varanasi on Thursday for his six-day long stay. But the place Bhagwat has chosen has created a controversy since the place is a government institution established for the promotion of weavers and artisans of the eastern Uttar Pradesh.

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The trade facilitation centre, based in Lalpur area of Varanasi, was set up recently to provide an exposure to weavers and artisans of Varanasi. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the same in 2017, he claimed that the facility will help weavers and artisans to showcase and sell their works. But by giving the same to Mohan Bhagwat and other senior members of RSS for stay and classroom for members of RSS, the government has helped the opposition question the real purpose of the centre, which is made on the money paid by taxpayers.

Bhagwat, who will teach lessons to Sangh volunteers in the same trade facilitation centre in his six-day stay in Varanasi, will also hold a rally in Sanskrit University on February 18. Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, and Amit Shah, Rajya Sabha MP and National President of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have been rumoured to participate in Mohan Bhagwat’s rally in Varanasi.

Prajanath Sharma, district president of Indian National Congress, has termed Bhagwat’s stay in the centre as a joke aimed at the weavers and artisans of the city. Sharma said, “Through its Shakhas (daily meetings), RSS has been politicising campuses and schools and colleges. But with the schooling and stay in trade facilitation centre, they are making a joke of the weavers of the Banaras who are looking towards the government with high hopes.

“Congress will strongly protest against the politicisation of the institutes and centres who are built on the taxpayers’ money,” Sharma added that if required, the Congress will step on the roads protesting against such practices.

In order to provide top-notch management, hundreds of RSS volunteers — in their traditional outfit — have taken charge of the centre in Varanasi. The centre also consists of several showcases and a crafts museum where tourists and visitors can witness the works which have helped Banaras to put a pin on the map. But as the RSS chief is staying in here, visitors and tourists have been asked to go back when they reached the centre.

Mohan Bhagwat will be accompanied by around 1,300 functionaries of the RSS in the same trade facilitation centre. Sources placed in RSS told that Bhagwat will hold a meeting with executives of RSS placed in Lucknow, Gorakhpur and Varanasi region, most probably to discuss the work the central government has been doing since past four years.

It was 2013 when Mohan Bhagwat stayed in Varanasi and it was the time when he put a stamp on the name of Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 elections. Keeping in mind the general elections of 2019 — which are also rumoured to be held early — Bhagwat’s stay also becomes necessary for the strategic planning of Bharatiya Janata Party.

Narendra Modi administration introduced ambitious but failed USTTAD scheme to boost the sale and trade of handy-works from the minority community, and also it failed to provide any relief to the weavers of Varanasi, who have not seen the glimpses of the trade facilitation centre yet. But the recent interlocking of BJP-RSS with the involvement of taxpayers’ money in it has sparked a debate which may soon gather pace.