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BJP Luminaries Gather In Varanasi

By Archis Mohan
May 27, 2024 09:00 IST
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'The question is whether Modi will increase his victory margin.'

IMAGE: A child dressed as Narendra Modi during the Mahila Sammelan in Varanasi, May 22, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Varanasi, a city usually bustling with pilgrims and tourists, is currently teeming with political heavyweights.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mohan Yadav and Brijesh Pathak, one of Uttar Pradesh's two deputy chief ministers, were all present here on Sunday.

The city is also set to welcome Bharatiya Janata Party President J P Nadda, UP's other Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, and Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday.

IMAGE: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar speaks to the media after his interaction with teachers and students in Varanasi on the topic: Empowering With Education-Teaching for a Better Tomorrow, in Varanasi, May 26, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Jaishankar, during his visit, took the opportunity to address students and teachers of a local school, emphasising the importance of technology in education.

He also met with the local Tamil community, urging them to support the BJP's Varanasi candidate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Yadav and Pathak, on the other hand, held public meetings and engaged with influential local leaders of their respective communities, rallying support for the prime minister ahead of the Lok Sabha polls here on June 1.

Goyal's agenda, on the other hand, includes meeting artisans and traders associated with Varanasi's textiles trade, particularly saris.

IMAGE: Women members of Namami Gange make a rangoli at Gaighat welcoming Narendra Modi ahead of his visit to Varanasi, May 21, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The BJP has planned several events in this Lok Sabha constituency leading up to the end of campaigning on May 30.

One such event, hosted by the BJP's foreign affairs department, led by Vijay Chauthaiwale, will see dozens of diplomats from across the world descend upon the city.

They will attend the PM's public meetings, observe the BJP's electoral preparedness, and visit the Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor, witnessing first-hand the city's transformation over the past decade.

Over the past week, the city's Gujarati community held rituals that lasted several days to pray for a win with a bigger margin for the PM.

Over the weekend, the city was alive with socio-cultural events. Music recitals and dance performances by artists from across the country, particularly southern India, served as a reminder of the Kashi-Tamil Sangamam cultural connect that the PM launched in 2022.

Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath addressed a mega public rally on Saturday.

IMAGE: Modi visits the Sankatmochan Hanuman Mandir in Varanasi, May 21, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

"The cultural scene is relatively vibrant. Infrastructure is better. Tourist footfall has increased manifold. The law and order has improved. It was a city that retired indoors after dusk, BJP Spokesperson K K Sharma told Business Standard, explaining the importance of 10 years during which the PM represented Varanasi in the Lok Sabha.

"Today, you would find people queuing up for morning darshan and aarti from 2.30 am onwards," Sharma added.

IMAGE: Ajay Rai, the Congress candidate from Varanasi, during the election campaign in Varanasi, May 24, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

However, the electoral battle in Varanasi, according to locals and political experts, is not about whether the PM will win for a third successive occasion, but if he will increase his share of the votes polled and his win margin.

The city's residents, like Sujit Kumar, a battery rickshaw operator, are keenly observing the political landscape.

"The Congress' Ajay Rai, who has the support of the 'cycle' (Samajwadi Party), or Haathi (Bahujan Samaj Party)'s Ather Jamal Lari, are no match for the PM," says Kumar, an avowed 'Behenji' fan.

"My life has not changed in the past 10 years, but the city looks better and cleaner, and the roads are wider," he says, thanking Mayawati's government for the roof over his head, and Modi for the ration," Kumar added.

"The question is whether Modi will increase his victory margin."

IMAGE: Samajwadi Party leader Dimple Yadav and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on their way to the Kaal Bhairav ‚Äč‚Äčtemple, in Varanasi, May 25, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Rai and Lari's campaigning is tepid in Varanasi city. Their supporters claimed that it was more vigorous in localities and nearby villages known to be supporters of the SP, the BSP and the Congress.

The INDIA bloc is also trying its utmost on a seat the result on which appears a foregone conclusion. Its leaders, the Congress' Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the SP's Dimple Yadav held a roadshow on Saturday.

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi are scheduled to address a rally later this week, which could have other leading lights of the alliance attend it as well.

"The impact of these public meetings and rallies in Varanasi whether of the BJP's leadership or that of the Opposition bloc has a cascading impact across the Purvanchal," said a Congress worker, confident that with the SP's support, Rai would finally have the measure of the PM.

Rai had contested against the PM in 2014 and 2019, as well.

IMAGE: Students of the Vikas Intermediate College Parmanandpur form a human chain urging people to cast their votes on June 1 in Varanasi, May 23, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Modi secured 56.37 per cent of the votes polled in Varanasi in 2014 when Arvind Kejriwal, apart from Rai, had challenged him.

In 2019, the PM's vote share increased to 63.6 per cent. Interestingly, the number of contenders for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat, which was 42 in 2014 and 26 in 2019, is only seven in 2024.

According to the Election Commission's Web site, as many as 55 people filed their nominations, and papers were accepted of eight, of which one candidate withdrew.

Apart from the PM, Rai and Lari, the others are either Independents or from fledgling parties.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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Archis Mohan
Source: source
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024