UP elections 2017: From vikas to liquor ban, what Varanasi wants from Modi

At the end of two roadshows, it is clear that Varanasi’s residents have a number of diverse expectations of Modi.

Written by Sheela Bhatt | Varanasi | Updated: March 6, 2017 1:53 am
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“This is our area. Yahan vikas ki baat nahi. Yahan sab kuch Jai Shri Ram!” says Neeraj Singh Thakur, wearing a saffron cap and the BJP scarf, as he waits for Prime Minister Narendra Modi near his home in Hukul Ganj, Varanasi. Isn’t Modi hitting the streets a sign of some nervousness in the BJP? Neeraj dismisses the very idea. “What are you saying? Here, not even the MLA visits us, and the Prime Minister is coming to our mohalla. We can wait for him even for two days.”

Modi will eventually reach Hukul Ganj at 5 pm in the course of his “Jan Darshan” yatra from Pandeypur to M G Kashi Vidhyapeeth. On the streets, Hindus and Muslims have been waiting from 2 pm. At the end of two roadshows, it is clear that Varanasi’s residents have a number of diverse expectations of Modi. Chhaya Rai, all dressed up, stands in a corner with two children. “I see Modi on television everyday. He is coming home. I must see him. I wish I can convey to him that please darubandi lagao. Nitish Kumar has done it in Bihar, now UP should. Men are torturing their women.”

Neeraj’s friend Anil Tripathy is a teacher. He complains that newspapers don’t write enough on the Samajwadi Party government’s alleged corruption and caste-based favouritism in appointment of temporary teachers. “I am impatient about throwing out the SP government. It’s only because I am a Brahmin that I am on the footpath… Modi is above caste, he will help us.” Sitting in a two-wheeler, government employee Manoj Mishra has his own expectations of Modi: “Modiji must end corruption.” Asked if anything has happened to change his life since 2014, when Varanasi elected Modi, Mishra gets annoyed. “Saath saal Congress kaam nahi kiye, dhai saal main kya, kya kare Modi? Modi is correcting the basics (buniyadi thancha) of India.”

At Chandra Residency, women wait with flowers and diya to welcome Modi. Says Hansa Singhania, “I want Modi to clean up the city.” And her neighbour Sugandha Rai says, “We see Chandrasekhar Azad in Modi. We have lots of hope in him.” Ali Mohammad and his family hold baskets of marigold petals to shower on Modi , supplied by local BJP members. “My country’s prime minister is coming in front of my home. How could I remain indoors?” says Mohammad, a bank employee, who is convinced that if a BJP government comes to power in Lucknow, “Modi vikas karaega. Sabki bhalai.

The “Jai Shree Ram” slogans don’t bother Ali. Neither does the fact that Modi’s party hasn’t fielded a single Muslim candidate in Uttar Pradesh. “That’s politics,” he whispers. “It isn’t Modi who did that. Amit Shah ne kiya!” When the leader finally drives in, Hukul Ganj chants, “Modi, Modi, Modi, Modi.” Says Ravish Kumar, a salesman, “He is a strong Hindu leader, only he can bring development. He will reduce corruption.” Ankita, who is studying medicine, says, “I have been watching Modi on TV for many years but he is much better-looking in real life. (Bahar jyada achcha hai). He should change our lives.”

Her father Dr Omprakash, who has a dispensary, adds, “My patients love Modi’s speeches, he is direct. Log sun ne ke liye betaab hote hai.” Rashmi Seth is shooting a video with her cellphone. “I will post it on Facebook. It will get so many ‘likes’,” she says. “I have lots of expectations of Modi. He is the first leader to come to my compound. He must make good roads in Varanasi; he must help women move around safely, even at night.” Shubham, who at 15 has never seen a BJP government in UP, can’t contain his excitement. “I am feeling like the greatest. Modi’s skin shines like silver,” he says. His friend Ramshankar looks on shyly. “Kaisa laga?” Ramashankar is asked. “Gora hai!

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