Lok Sabha polls: In Varanasi, Modi’s win margin the only point of interest | Lok Sabha Elections News

PM Narendra Modi at a rally in Hoshiarpur, Punjab on Thursday

PM Narendra Modi at a rally in Hoshiarpur, Punjab on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)


On Thursday, as the campaigning for the Varanasi Lok Sabha (LS) constituency wound down in its labyrinthine bylanes under the scorching summer sun, its LS member, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, issued a nearly six-minute-long appeal in chaste Bhojpuri, the region’s dialect, for its nearly 2 million electors, urging them to turn up to vote in greater numbers on Saturday for the cause of building a “new Kashi” and a “Viksit Bharat”.

 


The PM, who has represented Varanasi in the LS for 10 years since 2014, appealed to the constituency’s electorate to create a “new record”, possibly referring to the voter turnout registered on the seat in 2019.

 


In 2014, the PM’s first outing as a contestant in Varanasi, the voter turnout was 58.35 per cent. Five years later, while Modi’s winning margin and his share of total votes polled increased from 56.37 per cent to 63.6 per cent, the voter turnout declined from 58.35 per cent to 57.13 per cent.

 


Few in Varanasi expect the result to be different from 2014 and 2019. The only point of interest is whether the PM would increase his winning margin against his rivals, the Congress’ Ajay Rai, supported by the Samajwadi Party (SP), and Bahujan Samaj Party’s Ather Jamal Lari.

 


People in Varanasi, including those unhappy with the BJP rule, acknowledge the unprecedented development work carried out in Varanasi in the last 10 years.

 

In his message posted on X, the PM discussed some of the development works in Varanasi, stressing that the constituency has been at the heart of all central government schemes. He listed the Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor, the improvement of Ganga’s ghats, the ropeway project, and the increased tourist footfall, which are creating job opportunities. He called upon the youth, women, and farmers to turn up in greater numbers. “Each vote from you will renew my strength,” the PM said.

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At Vijay Chai Kendra in Varanasi’s bustling Chetganj locality, 65-year-old Vijay Kumar Sharda, the shop owner, was amused when asked about the political scene in Varanasi ahead of the polling day. “Who else other than Modi? He has facilitated projects worth several crores of rupees in Varanasi and given a massive facelift to the civic landscape after becoming the PM.”


Others earning their livelihoods in the bylanes of Varanasi concurred. Santosh Kumar Gupta, 70, who owns a provision store in Chetganj, said Modi would win easily as his rivals, Rai and Lari, were pushovers. Rai, a former BJP legislator from Varanasi before he joined the Congress, unsuccessfully contested against Modi in 2014 and 2019.

 


Political commentator Atri Bharadwaj noted that while there is no evident wave this time, unlike in the 2014 and 2019 LS polls, Modi had a clear edge as the voters had no option but to vote for him again. “Even if Ajay Rai could save his deposit in the elections, it would be a good achievement for the INDIA bloc candidate,” she said.

 


The Varanasi parliamentary constituency comprises five Assembly segments: Rohaniya, Varanasi North, Varanasi South, Varanasi Cantonment, and Sevapuri. The Opposition camp believes it stands a chance to better the BJP in a couple of these constituencies, especially Rohaniya. However, members of the minority community also accept that Modi’s win from Varanasi is a foregone conclusion.

 


Mazhar, a 30-year-old trader from Gauriganj, a law graduate, said Varanasi witnessed rapid development after Modi became the PM and that it was a matter of pride that he represented the local constituency.

 


“Sadly, there is an overdose of mandir-masjid narrative during polls which does no good to any community. There is much to be done for the local weavers, textile manufacturers, and traders. Most of the big contracts are going to companies from other states, especially Gujarat,” he lamented.

 


The PM held a roadshow with Yogi Adityanath in Varanasi a fortnight back but couldn’t visit the constituency as he was busy addressing public meetings across the country, including in the rest of Purvanchal.

 


Still, nearly all prominent BJP leaders, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP national chief J P Nadda, Uttar Pradesh (UP) Chief Minister Adityanath, and Union ministers Piyush Goyal, S Jaishankar, and others visited Varanasi in the past few days.

 


Nadda attended a meeting of the local weavers on Monday hosted by the UP Institute of Design and Research, which is part of the state government’s MSME department.

 


But the INDIA bloc did not give up on Varanasi. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and SP’s Dimple Yadav held a roadshow on Saturday. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and SP President Akhilesh Yadav held a rally in Varanasi on Tuesday.


“Modi will win hands down for several reasons. First and foremost is the pace of development in the constituency after he came to power. The poor will vote on the basis of the free ration and other welfare schemes of the Centre. Besides, there is little choice before the electorate,” local journalist Ajay Misra said.

 


Apart from Varanasi, other constituencies in UP to witness polling on June 1 include Maharajganj, Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Deoria, Bansgaon, Ghosi, Salempur, Ballia, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Mirzapur, and Robertsganj.

First Published: May 31 2024 | 12:03 AM IST


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