Source: Associated Press
By EMILY SCHMALL
VARANASI, India (AP) — In the Indian city Hindus consider the center of the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has commissioned a grand promenade connecting the sacred Ganges River with the centuries-old Vishwanath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the god of destruction.
It’s a project dripping with equal parts symbolism — Modi, the devout Hindu, restoring the ancient connection between two religious icons — and political calculation. In his five years as prime minister, Modi has pushed to promote this secular nation of 1.3 billion people and nine major religions — including about 170 million Muslims — as a distinctly Hindu state.
The $115 million promenade is just one of a number of Modi’s religious glamour projects, aimed squarely at pleasing his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s base ahead of a general election that starts on Thursday. While India is majority Hindu, critics say such projects undermine India’s multiculturalism, potentially stoke religious tension, and come at the expense of far more pressing infrastructure needs.