Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the historic 16th century Sidi Saiyyed Mosque in Ahmedabad, with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, is seen as a move meant to bolster his image among the international and domestic audiences.
Modi’s visit to a mosque took many by surprise and led to many interpretations. However, BJP insiders denied that the visit was aimed at garnering Muslim votes in the forthcoming Gujarat assembly polls. According to BJP insiders, Modi has leveraged Abe’s visit to highlight Unesco’s recent heritage status to Ahmedabad. The Sidi Saiyyed Mosque — famous as the Sidi Saiyyed ni Jaali for its intricate art work — had contributed in the city receiving the Unesco recognition.
People familiar with the matter said, Modi, as CM had taken the initiative to renovate mosques and conserve heritage of cities such as Ahmedabad that have a significant Muslim influence on traditions. As chief minister, he had participated in a music festival in Sarkhej Roza, an Islamic monument on Ahmedabad’s outskirts, and provided funds to renovate and rescue it from the ruins it was reduced to.
“The visit was also to showcase the grandeur of a city that he built and beautified in the 13 years he was CM,” a senior party leader said on Wednesday. “All accolades to forgotten tourist spots in the state, from Sabarmati river front to the Rani ki Vav in Patan, have been because of the PM’s efforts. The Sidi Saiyyed mosque showcases the history of the city he helped reconstruct and beautify. He has used the opportunity to showcase Ahmedabad and its mixed traditions to the world this way, which would also mean a spurt in the number of tourists in the coming days,” the leader added.
The mosque was built in 1573 by the Mughals. On his previous visit, Abe had performed Ganga Aarti at Varanasi with Modi. A visit to a mosque serves to send the right message, mainly to international fora. The PM, it is learnt, was keen on showing places of historic importance to Abe and even considered a visit to Vadnagar.