In Modi’s ‘bastion’ Varanasi, why is BJP running a whirlwind campaign?

By: | Updated: March 6, 2017 3:44 PM

Stakes in Varanasi are beyond just adding more numbers to its electoral count.

narendra modi varanasi campaign, modi campaign in varanasi, narendra modi varanasi campaign, varanasi campaign narendra modi, narendra modi varansi campaign, why a big campaign in varanasi,PM Narendra Modi waves at the crowd during his road show at Varanasi. (PTI)

“Na mai kahi aya hu, na mujhe kisi ne bulaya hai, mujhe to ma ganga ne bulaya hai, (Neither I have come anywhere, nor anyone has called me, I have been called by Ma Ganga here)” is what Narendra Modi said when he went to Varanasi as the Lok Sabha candidate. Highlighting the constituency’s importance, BJP then ran a dedicated ad-campaign on national television. Lots has changed since then. Today, within a time-frame of less than 3 years, BJPians have started calling Varanasi a bastion for the party in Uttar Pradesh. In 2014 elections, PM had secured a 52 per cent turnout here, beating AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, leading to India’s biggest Lok Sabha victory. Things looked comfortable for Modi then. Today they apparently look even better for the party. But then, why is BJP so serious or concerned about the poll? If Varanasi and Purvanchal are the bastions for BJP, then what makes the prime minister go for a whirlwind campaign over just one district?

Ostensibly, winning in Varanasi has now become a prestigious issue for the BJP. Stakes here are beyond just adding more numbers to its electoral count. If the party fails to showcase a convincing victory, it will send out a negative message to its cadre, and raise questions over Modi’s leadership and influence in the entire state. BJP’s nervousness is evident for some obvious reasons. In the first place, Varanasi, as propagated by the saffron army, has never been a bastion for BJP, in fact for any party at all. The voting pattern here has been mixed and confusing in Assembly Elections. In 2012, BJP had won 3 out of 8 Assembly Seats here. These 3 were out of total 4 which had gone to BJP in the entire Poorvanchal region’s 40 seats, leading to a poor show in Assembly elections.

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However, past records are not the only concern for the party. The top leadership which has thronged the city for campaigning lacks support from some of its grass-root leaders from the city, and the void is evident. Modi & co is facing the wrath of Shyam Deo Roy Chaudhary “Dada”, a very strong local BJP leader and seven-time MLA, whose ticket was cancelled this time. Similarly, the party has fielded Saurabh Srivastava from Varanasi Cantt seat, son of sitting MLA Jyotsna Shrivastava, local partymen allege top leadership is promoting dynasty, and say that there were more deserving candidates available. In campaign rallies, it’s hard to differentiate between the local party cadre and the ones who have come from outside the city accompanying the national leadership.

One thing which shouldn’t be forgotten here that Akhilesh, whose SP holds two seats in the constituency, is matching the PM step-by-step in the region. On Saturday, Akhilesh and Rahul gave it back to PM with a rally for rally, statue for statue, and road show for road show campaign, and at the end Mandir visits for Mandir visits campaigns. And to add to saffron worries, the two leaders are also trying to deploy huge crowds at their public meetings, that too, on same day when PM addresses his meetings, giving an impression that the contest, is not one-sided at least.

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A sense of dissatisfaction among voters with Modi’s words and deeds for the city is another reason for BJP’s apprehensions. On development part, nothing much has changed even after three years of PM being elected as a lawmaker from the city. People assert that Modi has taken initiatives, but plans are yet to be implemented on ground. Major initiatives like Namami Gange project, Varanasi-Qyoto pact, along with promises of job creation and better education opportunities are yet to materialise.

Still, with all the media hype, and Modi’s huge victory, along with the catchphrase like “Gujararat janmbhoomi and Varanasi Karmbhoomi”, BJP has been able to send out an impression that Kashi has become a stronghold of BJP. It’s time that the saffron party corroborate its claims.

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