Rajat Sharma

Idea for Votes: Lakshmi-Ganesh on notes

AKB30 Aam Aadmi Party convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have images of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh printed on all new RBI currency notes. He said, these are symbols of prosperity and the blessings of deities will help Indian economy to get back on track.
Kejriwal said, his suggestion was not against anyone. He cited the example of Indonesia, which has more than 85 per cent Muslims and less than 2 per cent Hindus. He said, despite being an Islamic country, Indonesia has printed image of Lord Ganesh on its currency notes.
The AAP chief said, he got this idea while performing Lakshmi poojan on Diwali night this year. He said, “I appeal to the Centre and the Prime Minister to retain the image of Mahatma Gandhi on our currency notes and print the images of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh as well….If Indonesia can do this, why not us? No one should have any objection. It is the question of nation’s prosperity and affluence. Goddess Lakshmi symbolises prosperity and wealth.”
On the question that AAP was practising Hindutva brand of politics, Kejriwal replied: “Let such allegations be levelled. I have spoken to many people and everyone said, this is a good idea and should be implemented.”
Kejriwal’s suggestion soon invited a barrage of criticisms from BJP leaders. Delhi BJP MP Manoj Tiwari asked why Kejriwal, who had gone to a mosque wearing the Muslim skull cap on his head seeking votes, has suddenly realized the power of Hindu deities?
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra asked why Kejriwal who was demanding that a hospital be built instead of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, is now making such a suggestion? Patra himself replied to this question. He said, this was Kejriwal’s style of seeking votes ahead of Gujarat assembly elections. He pointed out that it was Kejriwal’s government in Delhi which had threatened to send people to jail for six months if they used firecrackers on Diwali night. He said, it was a minister of Kejriwal’s party who abused Hindu gods and goddesses in public and had to quit. Patra said, “Kejriwal is changing his colours like a chameleon because he knows his party will lose in Gujarat heavily.”
I think Sambit Patra is right. Kejriwal did oppose the building of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, but after the landmark Supreme Court verdict, when work began on the temple, he visited Ayodhya and promised to provide free pilgrimages for senior citizens from Delhi to Ayodhya.
In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Wednesday night, we showed how Kejriwal, while inaugurating the Signature Bridge in Delhi, quoted his ‘naani’ (grandmother) and said Ram cannot stay in a temple erected by demolishing a mosque. We also showed how Kejriwal then said, if only temples were constructed, our younger generation will only become ‘pujaris’ (priests) in future, and India will go back to the 15th century. He had then told people, if you remain involved in temples and mosques, you children will never become engineers. ‘They will become temple priests’, he had said.
On Wednesday, BJP leaders reminded how in 2018 Kejriwal was opposing Ram temple in Ayodhya, but in 2019 when the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict came, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation of Ram temple in 2020, he changed his views. During last year’s Goa assembly elections, Kejriwal visited Ayodhya on October 26 and offered prayers before the idol of Lord Ramlalla. He also offered prayers in Hanumangarhi. The next day, he came to Delhi and announced that his government would arrange free pilgrimages, including travel, boarding and lodging, to Ayodhya for all senior citizens.
BJP leaders pointed out that Kejriwal has this habit of changing his views with time. Earlier, he used to host ‘iftaar’ parties during Ramzan in Delhi, and he used to pose for pictures wearing Muslim skull cap.
Why did Kejriwal float this idea of Lakshmi and Ganesh images for currency notes? Our Ahmedabad reporter Nirnay Kapoor says, Kejriwal’s minister Rajendra Pal Gautam (who later resigned) made a big mistake by abusing Hindu gods and goddesses at a function. Kejriwal’s party is now bearing the brunt of this mistake in Gujarat.
Rajendra Pal Gautam was shown in a video asking people to take vow never to worship Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, and other gods and goddesses. BJP supporters have gone to town showing this video to voters across Gujarat. The denigration of Hindu deities has become a poll issue in Gujarat. Posters have appeared showing Kejriwal wearing Muslim skull caps and describing him as ‘Hindu Virodhi’ (anti-Hindu). In Guajrat, the anti-Hindu image of any leader can cause big problems during elections. It was in this context that Kejriwal proposed the printing of images of Lakshmi and Ganesh on currency notes.
Even Congress has derided Kejriwal for making this suggestion. Party spokesman Gaurav Vallabh said, Kejriwal is the ‘B’ team of RSS and BJP. “Both have sunk the economy, and Kejriwal’s suggestion appears to be a joint move by BJP and AAP”, he said.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury made an interesting comment. He said, “Images of Arvind Kejriwal with Lakshmi and Ganesh should also be printed on currency notes. This will enhance the value of Indian rupee.”
On Thursday, another Congress leader Manish Tewari suggested that the image of Dr B R Ambedkar along with that of Mahatma Gandhi should be printed on currency notes. BJP leader from Maharashtra Nitesh Rane posted a morphed image of Shivaji on Indian currency note, with the cryptic comment “Ye Perfect Hai”.
I believe Arvind Kejriwal’s suggestion on currency notes appears to be a defensive act. BJP supporters in Gujarat are circulating posters of Kejriwal wearing Muslim skullcaps, and video of his minister asking people not to worship Hindu gods and goddesses. These have cost his party dearly in Gujarat. Kejriwal realized that his party could face a big loss in Gujarat assembly polls. Hence, the suggestion to print Lakshmi and Ganesh images on currency notes.
Kejriwal’s remarks reflect electoral gain or loss calculations rather than his faith in Hindu deities. Poet Kumar Vishwas has said, Kejriwal is trying to project himself as a staunch Hindu, because he has realized that there are already half a dozen leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav and Nitish Kumar, who are claiming minority votes. Kumar Vishwas says, Kejriwal’s calculation is that if he tries to lure even half of the 82 per cent Hindu votes, his work will be done, because he believes that Muslims will have no other option but to vote for his party. Kumar Vishwas has been a close associate of Arvind Kejriwal before parting ways, and he understands his political calculations.
Whatever may be the opinion of others, I am surprised to find that issues like images of Lakshmi and Ganesh on currency notes , or wearing of Muslim skullcaps, seem to have become the norm in Indian politics nowadays. It is nothing but superstition to say that printing of images of Lakshmi and Ganesh on currency notes will raise the value of Rupee and improve the economy. Such a suggestion is neither good for politics nor the economy.
As far as printing of Ganesh image on Indonesian currency notes is concerned, I can only point out that Thailand, in 2012, issued coins carrying image of Lord Ganesh on Deepawali, while Australia, in 2018, issued commemorative coins carrying Lord Ganesh’s image on Deepawali. These countries did this to show respect for the faith of Hindus, and not for collecting votes, or for indulging in politics.

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