With a couple of days left in campaigning, the opponents of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi have targeted him on the issue of cleaning and developing the banks of River Ganga on the lines of Sabarmati in Ahmedabad.
Congress has come up with a picture, reportedly from Google Earth, to claim that Sabarmati was not a “revived” river, while Aam Aadmi Party has reportedly gone ahead with collecting the water samples from the river to get them examined in a private laboratory and bring before the public its real status, which was “highly polluted”.
Both the parties were also opposing the “Sabarmati model”, saying Ganga was an integral part of Varanasi’s spiritual existence and it cannot be allowed a facelift akin to “corporatised development” of the Sabarmati riverfront.
The Sabarmati riverfront has been a major rallying point for Modi, who promised similar efforts to revive Ganga in Varanasi. He has mentioned this in his blogs and the photos of Sabarmati riverfront (pre-2001 and 2011) have been splashed in BJP ads over the last few days.
At a few places in Varanasi, private companies promoting Gujarat tourism could also been seen putting up hoardings of the Sabarmati riverfront.
In a statement on Wednesday, Congress nominee from Varanasi, Ajay Rai, said: “The Sabarmati riverfront model is the one in which the original character of the river was changed and it was turned into a picnic spot. The space around it was then sold to the corporate to construct hotels and other things.”
Rai said, “It is the centre of cultural and religious heritage of Varanasi. We do not want Sabarmati-like development for River Ganga.”
Referring to the image from Google, the Congress pointed out that only the riverfront had adequate water, brought from Vasna Dam and the river, thereafter, was dry and polluted. “It is more like a lake”, it was alleged.
On the other hand, AAP has already been insisting that the development of Varanasi for purposes of tourism would not be carried out at the cost of tinkering with its spiritual character. It has promised development of Varanasi as as “holy city”. A team of AAP workers has reportedly gone to Ahmedabad and nearby areas from where it has collected nearly 30 samples, which were to be tested in a laboratory. The report on the water quality is likely to be made public by Arvind Kejriwal in a couple of days.