Varanasi, May 13 : The city of Baba Vishwanath is yet again in the limelight due to the candidature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
With Varanasi attaining a new aura of glitz and glitter due to the visit of foreign dignitaries, including Japan's Shinzo Abe, the presence of leaders from prominent parties in the campaign has also sent the political barometer soaring in the holy city.
Divided in five Vidhan Sabha segments, Varanasi has 18, 54,541 voters.
There are 26 candidates in the May 19 fray from 18 political parties, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian National Congress and Samajwadi Party.
The main contest, though, is seen among Mr Modi, Congress candidate Ajay Rai and SP-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance nominee Ms Shalini Yadav. The parliamentary constituency of Varanasi, has given two Prime Ministers-Lal Bahadur Shastri and NaMo- and seven 'Bharat Ratnas' to the nation.
While the BJP leaders highlighted the subject of nationalism along with the developmental works which have taken place here in the past five years, the Congress and SP have raked up unemployment, alleged razing of ancient temples for the Vishwanath temple corridor construction, agrarian distress, Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation. The Opposition camp also raised the issue of suitable compensation after land acquisition in the rural areas.
In 2014, Mr Modi had won the support of 5,81,022 voters in his massive victory against Delhi's present Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party who had secured 2,92,038 votes. Rai, who had been an MLA from Varanasi's Pindra Vidhan Sabha segment, had polled 75,614 votes and was at third spot. Bahujan Samaj Party's Vijay Prakash Jaiswal had won 60,579 votes and stood fourth while SP candidate Kailash Chaurasia with 45,294 votes had to be contented with the fifth position.
Ms Yadav is the daughter-in-law of Rajya Sabha's former Deputy Chairman Shyam Lal Yadav. She had contested as a Congress candidate for Varanasi's Mayor in 2018, in which she logged 1,130,00 votes and had finished second. Ms Yadav recently left the Congress and aligned with the SP. Former MP and five-time MLA Independent candidate Atiq Ahmed and Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party's Surendra Rajbhar are also in the electoral fray this time. Currently, four out of the five Assembly seats are in the BJP's kitty, while their ally Apna Dal (S) holds the remaining one and hence, the BJP perceives that the electoral battle may be even more easy this time.
Kashi region BJP president Mahesh Chandra Srivastava averred that there is a wave in favour of Mr Modi, this time around as well and he will register an emphatic victory by breaking his own record and winning maximum number of votes.
Mr Modi has done historic works for Varanasi, he said, asserting that the developmental, public-welfare works and the initiatives in his tenure, as regards national security, have never been undertaken since Independence. A big success has been received as far as cleaning the holy 'Ganga' river is concerned.
Proper development of roads and 'ghats' was undertaken in the past five years. Underground electricity lines were laid in large parts of the city. After Pakistan--which gives shelter to terrorists--was given a befitting reply, the people's belief towards Mr Modi has increased, the Kashi region president affirmed.
The Congress candidate scoffed at these claims. He alleged that Mr Modi not only deceived the people of Varanasi, but also 'jeevandayini' (life-giver) Ganga and in this election, he will have to pay its price. He said that the promise of cleaning the Ganga was not kept. The promise of providing 2 crore jobs every year turned out to be a non-starter. Mr Rai also asserted that the Modi government imposed immense hardships on the people by its faulty implementation of demonetisation and GST, adding that the promise of raising the income of farmers was not kept and they were forced to commit suicide.
Mr Rai alleged that on the directions of Mr Modi, hundreds of temples were razed in the garb of construction of the Shri Kashi Vishwanath temple corridor. There is a lot of anger among the people towards the Modi government and the public will certainly vote it out. Mr Rai also averred that worried over the BJP's wrong policies, at least 15 political parties have supported Congress in Varanasi.
On the other hand, Ms Yadav says that the people are worried over the faulty policies of Prime Minister Modi and his promises have not been met. Ms Yadav asserted that the citizens of Varanasi are suffering from the lack of basic facilities while the BJP leaders are busy saying that historical development has taken place here. Ms Yadav also averred that the economy was still to recover from demonetisation, and added that in the Union and state governments led by the BJP, atrocities against the poor people had increased and there was no one to lend them an ear.
Before filing his nomination, the Prime Minister had held a mega road show in Varanasi, which attracted huge crowd. Senior leaders of the BJP, several of its chief ministers and leaders of its alliance parties were also present when the PM filed his nomination papers.
SP-BSP-RLD gathbandhan and the Congress have also left no stone unturned in campaigning for their candidates. (UNI)