Varanasi : Religion, in many ways, is the lifeblood of Varanasi, but in the run-up to the big fight of May 12, politics seems to have emerged as the “new religion”.
The city, a popular tourist destination, particularly for Hindus and spirituality-seeking foreigners, now has “political tourists” filling its hotels, streets and ghats.
The crowd includes political workers, media persons, and even others wanting to soak in the political colour, sound and smell. They want to get the feel of the Lok Sabha big battle between BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, Congress’ Ajai Rai and, to a minor extent, Kailash Chaurasiya of the Samajwadi Party.
The city, and, in several instances, even homes have been divided into camps as voters are taking sides.
As this IANS correspondent traversed through the city, an auto rickshaw driver, wearing a saffron cap donned by BJP supporters, shouts at another with an AAP cap as he drives by — “you would come to terms with reality after the polls”.
Krishna Mukherjee, a local BJP worker informs his uncle and brother are supporting the AAP, leading to frequent bitter exchanges in the house.”You tend to have arguments, stemming from ideological differences,” he said.
For many, the run-up to May 12 is a wait for normalcy to return to their lives.
“You cannot walk on the road, cannot even sleep in peace at home… There is one loudspeaker or the other going on every time,” said Rashmi, a student of Benaras Hindu University (BHU).
Rani Mishra, a housewife said she did not mind the inconvenience, but she fears a clash as a result of rising tempers amid soaring temperatures.
“I hope there is peace and all ends in peace. When we hear about the small confrontations between different groups, I just pray that nothing untoward happens,” she said.
Meanwhile, police personnel are putting in extra hours, even doing non-stop shifts.
Police official Moolchandra Prasad told IANS that all leaves have been cancelled. “We are on duty day and night, there is hardly any time to sleep,” he said.
However, their reward for the labour that they are putting in is free snacks at random joints and free auto rides, which they anyhow enjoy throughout the year, as IANS got to know from residents.
Most of the people are happy that Varanasi is getting national and even international prominence.
“Everyone is talking about Varanasi… Kashi is perhaps the oldest city of India, yet we never got the attention that we deserved. With Modi deciding to fight from here, we are hogging all the limelight,” said a beaming Ravi Verma, a garments shop owner, told IANS.
For many, it is time for brisk business.
Rashid, an auto driver, said he is getting double of what he earns usually over the past two weeks. However, with the long jams courtesy the road shows, he is also losing more on fuel than on other days.
“The fares are good, more than Delhi or any other place. But, when there are bottlenecks on all the roads, we lose on fuel. During the BJP road show, I had to take a 20-km detour, and burnt more fuel than the money I made,” he said.
The mallahs, or the boatmen on the Ganga, are smiling all the way to the bank.
“We are making anything from Rs.2000 to Rs.10,000 for boat rides, especially when people come with big cameras. They are ready to pay more for a good boat,” said Madho Nishad, one who trades his business at the Assi Ghat.
Ramdin Chaurasiya, a pan shop owner, said there is increase in business, but he would be really happy if Varanasi gets the development it is waiting for.
“Whether it is Kejriwal or Modi, I hope to see my city developed, with better roads, and more employment… Other than that, nothing can change Benaras or its culture. Once the voting is done, all will be friends again and everything would be the same as earlier,” he said.
(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Die is cast
With only 41 seats of Lok Sabha remaining to be voted upon tomorrow , the die is cast
Outcome of those 41 seats is unlikely to make much of a difference to who will form the next Government at the Centre
If BJP falls short of 272 seats , ” Aya Ram , Gaya Ram ” horse-trading will settle the issue
But what will send a loud and clear message across India is ,
” Who wins in Varanasi ? ”
It is no more a question of Congress vs BJP
Or , a question of David vs Goliath
It is no more a question of choosing between , lesser of the two evils
Even if AAP has made a few honest mistakes and occasionally , compromised on lofty principles , for the first time , people of Varanasi have a choice
To choose between the least of the THREE EVILS !
There are no ABSOLUTE standards by which to judge political parties
There are only RELATIVE standards – and , even these keep shifting
If you think , some of the AAP members – and even , some of its leaders – are susceptible to making immoral compromises , you are entitled to your opinion – which is your right
And Arvind Kejriwal would be the first person to defend your right
Let us ask ourselves ,
” Who is the Least Corrupt of the three ?
Who do I deserve ?
Who is likely to resign if he cannot fulfill his poll-promises ? ”
BJP came into power in Gujarat on 26 Dec 2012 , by promising :
” If voted to power , we will construct 50 lakh houses for the poor in next 5 years ”
In the 500 days since BJP came to power , Gujarat Government should have built , and distributed , 13,69,863 homes
To find the truth , file a RTI application – without expecting any answer !
Of course , by 20th May , expect NaMo to resign as Gujarat CM
Not for having failed to fulfill his promise to people of Gujarat
But , to fulfill his poll-promise to people of India , that , if voted to power , BJP will construct 100 Mega-Cities in next 5 years
That is one Chandigarh or Gandhi-Nagar , every 18 days !
Hopefully , P C Sorkar ( jr ) will help out with a Mirage !
* hemen parekh ( 11 May 2014 / Mumbai )