India’s Varanasi Is Abundant with Saffron for Narendra Modi Flowing With Ideas During The Lok Sabha Election

The sacred city of Kashi is engulfed in the political color of saffron in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, while the opposition gives up, having nothing to offer in the way of ideas and even less desire for bold experiments against the massive display of Modi magic. Here’s a summary of the changed political landscape in this constituency as Varanasi gets ready for voting day on June 1.

This election, as well as the previous ten since BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi chose to run from the seat in 2014, Varanasi is colored in saffron. Remarkably, Varanasi has been a BJP stronghold since 1991; the Congress has only managed to penetrate it once, in 2004. But after the prime minister entered the race, the BJP’s performance gained enormous momentum.

With a lead of 4.8 lakh votes in the 2019 election compared to 3.7 lakh votes in the 2014 election, Prime Minister Modi maintained his seat, recording one of the largest victory margins in the nation. The only issue on voters’ minds in 2024, when the prime minister is up for election again, is how much of a landslide victory Modi will have in what promises to be a lopsided contest. The BJP is campaigning under the slogan “Abki Baar, 10 Lakh Paar,” hoping to increase Modi’s overall vote share to 10 lakh votes, as opposed to 6.75 lakh votes, or 63% of the total vote in 2019. Modi is on track to complete a hat trick in Varanasi.

With the building of the Kashi Vishwanath corridor, ring roads, improved road and bridge networks, a cancer hospital, and a cricket stadium, Varanasi has seen a radical transformation in terms of development. The constituency has come to appreciate the emphasis on cleanliness, particularly in Kashi. Furthermore, the visual attractiveness of the city has increased with the elimination of overhead power wires, improving living conditions and safety regulations.

In this group, the penetration of federal and state government programs is likewise at its peak. Benefits under the PM Awas Yojana, Ayushman Bharat Scheme, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, and other programs have been given to lakhs of people. Due to the prioritization of this previously underutilized seat by expressways, airlines, and Vande Bharat train links, Varanasi’s connectivity has increased and many may argue that it has been placed on the national map.

The Purvanchal area has been affected by these improvements, which has further enhanced people’s positive perception of PM Modi. In addition, visitors from all across the nation and the globe have descended upon this historic city to take in its revitalization.

It has made sure that Varanasi’s growth occurs in accord and cooperation with its spiritual qualities, which in turn attracts more people to the BJP. The majority of Hindu voters in Varanasi saw their ideal representation in PM Modi’s religious and spiritual demeanor. There is also a common assumption that if PM Modi hadn’t taken a personal interest in the seat, Varanasi would not have seen the rapid growth and restoration of its historic grandeur.

A noteworthy remark to be made here is that the Prime Minister, apart from his about 45 visits to the seat since assuming office, has assigned a large number of officials to handle tasks related to his office, with the primary responsibility being to keep the public informed and address their concerns as they arise. The prime minister’s position is further strengthened by the state administration headed by Yogi Adityanath and the four MLAs of the BJP in the constituency, which has five assembly seats. The political climate in Varanasi has changed as a result of the double-engine government’s promises.

The electorate in Varanasi and Modi are so closely connected, in fact, that one prominent opinion held by locals is that a political campaign does not even need the prime minister’s presence to be declared a success. Beyond caste boundaries, he is very popular and has even won the respect of the local Muslim population, particularly the lower classes who have benefited from several government initiatives.

Ultimately, the BJP feels optimistic about its chances in this election and is ready for a roadshow led by Modi before voting day, which might be enough to ensure an overwhelming win.

Varanasi is also greatly impacted by the changes that have occurred in Ayodhya’s political, religious, and infrastructure. Voters who feel gratified by the BJP’s engagement in the Ram Mandir campaign and the prime minister’s personal interest in developments have been energized by the Ram Mandir’s quick construction and the spectacular Pran Pratishtha celebration.

Furthermore, these developments have raised optimism for the Gyanvapi Masjid case, which has already been taken to court and is anticipated to be successfully defended by Hindu claimants. Devotees have faith that the present government will not tamper with or interfere with the court-ordered inquiries. Furthermore, they have faith that the Modi-Yogi twin engine administration would keep an eye on things and ensure that the hearings run amicably, with no tensions between communities escalating into the streets.

One would expect the united opposition to put up a strong front on PM Modi’s territory if they were sincere about their rivalry, but so far, they haven’t. Even among the opposition camps, there aren’t many people who are critical of the Prime Minister’s work, despite the fact that supporters are eager to vote on election day to demonstrate their support for the PM’s performance so far. Rather, their politics are based on concerns of inflation and unemployment as well as religious polarization.

Here, Ajay Rai, the nominee for the INDIA group, is the main opponent of PM Modi. Currently serving as the leader of the Uttar Pradesh Congress, Rai has faced the PM twice in the Lok Sabha elections, winning 14.38% of the vote in 2019. Rai may anticipate a significant rise, if with limitations, in their coalition with the Samajwadi party, which received 18.4% of the vote in the same year. Shalini Yadav, the SP candidate for 2019, profited from the affiliation with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is now outside of the INDIA group. In reality, Syyed Niyaz Ali, a Muslim, has been put up by the BSP to fight for the fundamental support base of the INDIA bloc. The BSP’s independent campaign and the absence of a Muslim and Yadav vote consolidation mean that the INDIA bloc’s performance has little room for improvement, and as a result, it seems to have abandoned its electoral plan altogether.

Rai has a fascinating political background. His career began when he joined the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a “karyakarta.” He then became the convener of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student arm of the BJP. Five-time MLA Rai went on to win three seats on the BJP ticket in the UP Assembly, representing Varanasi’s Kolasla constituency in 1996, 2002, and 2007. He left the saffron movement in 2009 when his application for a Lok Sabha seat was rejected. Rai wanted to run for office from Varanasi, but he left the BJP when veteran leader Murli Manohar Joshi was awarded the ticket. On a Samajwadi Party (SP) ticket, he then sought for office from Varanasi but was not successful. After joining the Congress in 2012, Rai was selected to run against Modi for the Lok Sabha seat after winning the newly created Pindra seat in Varanasi.

Former leader of the Shiv Sena (UT section), Sanjay Raut, had speculated that Priyanka Gandhi would win the election from Varanasi if she decided to run, back when the grand coalition of parties was coming together. Though the local Congress unit was intrigued by this concept, no such choice was made since the party chose a non-experimental strategy and showed no desire to question the prime minister, even in a symbolic sense.

The 2014 experience of Arvind Kejriwal, who at the height of his popularity received 20.34% of the vote and was unable to equal Modi’s resounding triumph, may have killed the symbolic strategy.

Ajay Rai is on his own when it comes to the opposition campaign, receiving no help from national figures to present a strong front against Modi. There hasn’t yet been a heated campaign rally conducted by Rahul Gandhi or Akhilesh Yadav in Varanasi. In these conditions, Rai has been promoting the narrative of the “migrant” and the “outsider,” claiming that the Ganga-Jamuni culture of Kashi will only be preserved if the public rejects his enormous challenger.

The Congress brought up a case of alleged molestation by BJP IT-cell office bearers in January in order to protest against the party’s leadership and seek an apology from the prime minister. Congressmen who had joined the demonstrations engaged in combat with the police, but they were prevented from going farther. In the end, the matter died out before assuming a political shape.

Furthermore, the constituency is primarily seen by the political opposition as a high-profile means of achieving notoriety for those seeking media attention and acknowledgment. Nominees have poured in to submit their names. The most well-known figures who have garnered media attention for their blatantly bizarre choice to enter the ballot include comedian Shyam Rangeela, who has given impersonating the prime minister a new meaning after making a reputation for himself in the imitation industry. Another term for the transgender community’s effort to bring the government’s attention to transgender rights is Nirmohi Akhara’s Himangi Sakhi. She has expressed to the media her admiration and respect for the prime minister, but she also wants to run to bring attention to the problems facing the Kinnar community.

All in all, it is still unclear if Varanasi will be hotly fought or not with less than three weeks till election day. But one thing is certain—the opposition believes the war is already lost, which has demotivated them and sapped their will to attack this stronghold. That being said, everyone’s sole thought is, “What will be the margin of Modi’s victory?”

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