BJP chief Amit Shah today took a dip in the Kshipra river with Dalit saints, reaching out to the community at the 'Simhasth Kumbh', a massive congregation of Hindus, as the party looks to consolidate its Hindutva vote base ahead of the crucial Uttar Pradesh elections.
Mixing with the multitude, Shah later asserted the BJP-led NDA government was committed to strengthening the culture and tradition of India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to attend an event in the city on Saturday, while RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will be here tomorrow, underlining the Hindutva outfits' all out attempts to expand their base during the sacred religious congregation.
Shah was joined by Dalit saints, including Balyogi Umesh Nath Giri of Balmiki Dham, besides other Hindu seers during the customary dip in the river billed by the party as 'Samrasta Snan' (bath for social harmony).
He felicitated them and then went to another event where he honoured the heads of various Hindu akharas.
"I and my party workers seek your blessings so that the government under Narendra Modi goes on to make India the 'vishwa guru' (world leader)," he said, batting for social harmony and development.
Shah also noted that today was the birth anniversary of Adi Shankaracharya, who was credited with unifying various streams of Hinduism.
Later, Shah also had a 'Samrasta Bhoj' (social harmony feast) with Dalit sadhus.
Prior to the 'Snan', the BJP chief, accompanied by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and others, took part in a "samagam" (meeting) at Valmiki Dham which was attended among others by Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad head Narendra Giri, Juna Akhara Peeth's head Awdheshanand and Valmiki Dham's Peethadheeshwar Umesh Nath.
"BJP is the only party which believes in strengthening the country's culture and fostering the motto of world as one abode, one family (Vasudhaiva kutumbakam)," Shah told reporters.
"It (snan) holds more significance as today is the jayanti of Shankracharya, who treaded the path of unifying the main streams of thoughts in Hindu religion at a young age of 32," he said.
The non-Dalit sadhus who were earlier averse to the 'Samrasta Snan' today softened their stand, saying they had misunderstood the concept.
They said they were under a "wrong" impression that the bath was confined to Shah and the Dalits. After coming to know that people from all castes will participate in it, they decided to join too.
"Water is for everybody and saints of all hues have taken bath together. We have no reservation now against the snan," Juna Akhara Peeth's head Awdheshanand said.
Valmiki Dham's head Umesh Nath Maharaj appealed to political parties and saints to propagate nationalism above caste, sect and community, a line of thought being vigorously and vociferously being pursued by BJP.
Earlier, the Shankaracharya of Dwarkapeeth Swaroopanand Saraswati and Akhil Bharatiya Akahara Parishad president Narendra Giri had deplored the move, saying the sadhus have no caste and all were free to take a holy dip during Kumbh.
There were media reports that Shah may skip the 'Samrasta Snan' after senior RSS leader and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh vice president Prabhakar Kelkar said on Sunday the announcement of social harmony bath gave an impression that earlier Dalits were discriminated against during Kumbh.
With Narendra Modi and Amit Shah at the helm of affairs in the government and the party, BJP has made no bones about its attempts to broaden and consolidate its core Hindutva vote bank with the help of religious leaders and events.
Dalits, who have been mostly wary of embracing the Hindutva agenda, are being aggressively wooed by the party. BJP has of late vigrously promoted the legacy of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar as it believes that the disadvantaged commumity's support held the key to its future.
The party's immediate priority is the UP Assembly polls scheduled next year and the Dalits, who constitute over 20 per cent of the state's population, are currently seen to be backing Mayawati-led BSP.
Terming 'Kumbh Snan' as an extraordinary event not only in India but the entire world, Shah said crores of worshippers and saints have been coming together for centuries at the same place and same time to take a holy dip without any invitation from anyone.
He said that massive facilities have been created with blessings from religious leaders. Kumbh also gives an opportunity to people to seek blessings of our revered saints and gurus, the BJP chief said.
"The BJP-led government is committed to strengthening the culture and tradition of the country. I also bow in front of all saints on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and pray for well being of all living beings and world at large," he said.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that while United Nations has been speaking about unity of the world in the last few decades, Indians have been taught about unification of the world and wellbeing of all living beings for thousands of years.
The BJP President's "Samrasta Snan" at Kumbh with Dalits is significant since it will give much needed confidence to the community, which has faced social boycott, ostracisation and untouchability for centuries, an official statement said.
The party is committed to eradication of these social ills and bring Dalits into the mainstream, it said.
In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 'Social Justice and Empowerment' for weaker sections was one of the key poll planks of BJP.