Narendra Modi, the saffron warrior didn’t burn his boats before invading Shivnagari, the oldest living city, also known as Kashi, the City of Light, that nestles on the banks of Holy Ganga, with a dream to conquer India.
After all he is neither Tariq Ibn Ziyad, the Muslim general who had conquered Spain in early 700 or Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, who occupied Mexico in 1589 AD. Both had taken a vow “Let us burn our boats. Let us not think of retreat, defeat, option to return. Either we win or we die”.
Reason: BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate has a safe escape route through Vadodara though he thinks his victory from Varanasi, the Mecca for Hindus, would ensure his entry into 7 Race Course Road in Delhi.
Modi also feels re-assured of his victory hands down because he thinks there is no serious challenge to him from anyone or any party. Even Congress till date could not muster courage to field any candidate against him and Mayawati is still silent which many believe is dangerous.
But his feelings may be because of his over-confidence. However, social activist and senior journalist Utkarsh Sinha points out that for Modi Varanasi, where people come to atone for their sins and seek Moksha (salvation) itself would be a big challenge to this strong-headed BJP leader.
The city dotted with 1,000 temples and numerous ghats is also known as the spiritual capital of India.
Lenin Raghuvanshi, a Varanasi-based human rights activist (representing Peoples’ Vigilances Committee on Human Rights—PVCHR) said Modi forgets that the city, which was described by Mark Twain as a city older than history, a city older than tradition, was a “symbol of the spiritual and cultural pluralism of India” because it is also inhabited by followers of other religions faith (Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists), who consider the city as their spiritual center.
True. Just 13 km away from Varanasi is Sarnath, highly revered centre of Buddhism. It was here that Lord Buddha had delivered his first sermon to his disciples after he had attained Supreme Enlightenment at Bodhgaya in central Bihar. On the other hand Muslims, mainly artisans and weavers, form single largest religious group with a population of 2.50 lakhs.
Yet everyone feels there is Modi Tsunami on the banks of highly-polluted Holy River. “For others it may be a river but for me it’s my maa (mother)” Modi tells the audience. That’s Modi’s style to mesmerise people. But there is nothing new in it as every Indian calls the sacred river as “Ganga Maiya”.
BJP strategists believe that the Modi-effect would have direct impact on 21 seats while it would have ripple effect in 10-12 seats across Ganga in Bihar. (The adjacent areas in Bihar region include Valmikinagar, Pashchimi Champaran, Purvi Champaran, Gopalganj, Siwan, Mahrajganj, Saran, Ara, Buxar, Sasaram and Karakat).
It would happen only when BJP leaders stopped pulling each other’s legs or sulking. In fact most of the constituencies are facing turmoil because of the leadership’s crude attempt to shuffle the veteran candidates from the seats they held and import “outsiders”. The leaders who have been shuttled or sidelined to establish Modi’s supremacy have been the architect of BJP and before that BJS. Besides, despite Modi wave Varanasi’s caste calculus might create hurdles for him in the city of “mauj & masti”.
For Modi serious challenge comes from neighborhood — Azamgarh. Mulayam’s presence in Azamgarh the centre of Muslim-Yadav (MY) combine would not only strengthen the time-tested M-Y tie but would directly impact 15 eastern seats and checkmate further march of Modi and BJP.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav as a political wrestler has mastered the art of lifting his rivals to his shoulder and then giving them a deadly spin. Thus his decision to contest from Azamgarh too was seen as his signature move. Noted social anthropologist Badri Narayan of Allahabad-based GB Pant Social Science Institute said it was Mulayam’s “master-stroke” that would not only upset BJP’s political calculations but would also strengthen social combination.
Asserting that Mulayam adopted a strategy which has reunited Muslims with politically strong Yadavs, political analyst and Congress spokesperson Surrender Singh Rajput recalled that Choudhary Charan Singh had once said that if he had to choose between Baghpat and Azamgarh he would definitely prefer the later. Rajput pointed out that Modi had a secret agenda of uniting Backwards to counter Muslims’ electoral power. Only Mulayam could check it and he did it effectively.
However Varanasi is all set to witness a breathtaking fight after the entry of AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal and Mukhtar Ansari, the don-turned politician and founder of Qaumi Ekta Dal. This has left Modi and his supporters confused. In panic Modi dubbed Kejriwal as a “Pakistani agent” and called him “AK-49” creating waves of anger in the political circles. Ansari in 2009 had given BJP stalwart Joshi run for his money and had nearly defeated him. The margin of Joshi’s victory was meager 17,211 votes.
Kejriwal in his own style has stormed Varanasi with various sections including majority of poor Muslims rallying around him. On the other hand Samajwadi Party has fielded Kailash Chaurasia a “Paanwala” against Modi who is busy selling himself as a “chaiwala”. Chaurasia is a minister in Akhilesh Yadav ministry.
However, when there was a suggestion that there should be joint candidate against BJP’s Prime Ministerial nominee in Varanasi a confident Akhilesh Yadav put his foot down saying his (Samajwadi) Party is strongest and biggest secular party.
However it was Congress which appeared a “bechara” as it could not so far find any strong candidate against Modi. Names like Digvijay Singh appeared and disappeared. On the other hand names like former Varanasi MP Rajesh Mishra, a Brahmin, and Ajay Rai, a Bhumihar with a substantial clout too are contenders for Congress ticket.
Statistically speaking the electoral history of Varanasi is also a challenge for Modi. From 1957 to 1989, the seat was Congress’ pocket borough (except in 1967-CPM, 1977-BLD and 1989-JD). Then BJP won it in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999. In 2004 Congress snatched the seat from BJP and in 2009 the party (BJP) faced a tough challenge from Mukhtar Ansari.
Now everyone feels that Modi’s victory is almost sure but nobody is sure if he would be an MP or PM from the Holy land despite off and on chant “Har Har Modi”.
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