Unhappy with the veteran leader’s performance in the city, political pundits, academicians and the common man say the call to field him from Kanpur was a blessing in disguise for him. Sharat Pradhan reports.
When the Bharatiya Janata Party announced that its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would be filing his nominations from Varanasi, many questioned the decision, as senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi had represented the seat for a long time. But, now many political pundits and people claim that the party’s call to field Joshi from Kanpur instead of Varanasi was a blessing in disguise for him, as he would not have been able to win the seat.
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While strolling down the long ghats and bylanes of the ancient city, one does not come across a single supporter of Joshi, who won the seat in 2009, albeit with a thin margin of 17,000 votes and that too against Mukhtar Ansari, a rival who stood for elections from behind bars.
Ansari has decided to steer clear of the elections this time around, paving the way for Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal. However, the former Delhi chief minister’s decision to step down has disillusioned many, which may tilt the odds in Modi’s favour.
“Kejriwal has disappointed us by falling into the trap laid by the Congress and BJP. He could have won if BJP had retained Murli Manohar Joshi as its nominee. It was very wise on the part of BJP to replace him with Modi otherwise Kejriwal would have defeated Joshi,” said Surendra Singh of Baba Keenaram Ashram, well known for its Aghori philosophy lineage.
Retired police sub-inspector Dhirendra Kumar Misra, who was initially chagrined by BJP’s decision to replace Joshi, has had a change of heart now.
A lot of the younger voters in the area sense the pragmatism in the change in seats. “Joshi might be a learned physics professor. But tell me one thing he has given the city in the past five years,” asked Anuj Kumar, a second year law student who came to Varanasi from a neighbouring village only to catch a glimpse of Modi, who took the city by storm on Thursday.
Ashok Rai, a trader from Gudaulia, alleged that Joshi had done very little for the people of Varanasi. Chandra Prakash Misra, a professional pandit, alleged the same. “These ghats are regarded as among the holiest of places in Varanasi and just look at the state. Joshi never cared to look at the filth collecting here or the needs of the people.”
A young city trader, Pratik Gupta chimed in. “I wonder what he did when he visited Kashi Vishwanath temple. Were his eyes shut? He could have at least ensured a clean passage to the most revered temple in the country.”
“I think the only sensible thing the BJP did was to replace Joshi with Modi,” observed Suresh Kumar Chaurasia, a trader.
And it isn’t just the common man who thinks Joshi’s ouster from Varanasi was the right call. Even academicians from the Banaras Hindu University claim that Joshi was a disappointment. “Joshi has been a total letdown. He lives in his own ivory tower, unconcerned about the electorate. We thought a highly educated man like him would display some accountability but we were wrong,” said a senior BHU professor on condition of anonymity.