Uttar Pradesh Elections 2017: Away from Bengal, Varanasi bhadralok root for BJP

Many residents of Bangali Tola reaffirm their faith in the BJP, although they are upset that the party has denied the Varanasi South ticket to Shyamdeb Roy Choudhury, a seven-time MLA widely known as “Dada”.

Written by Anand Mishra | Bangali Tola (varanasi) | Updated: March 9, 2017 7:47 am
Uttar Pradesh Elections 2017, UP Polls 2017, BJP UP polls, Bengalies UP, Bangali Tola BJP, Varanasi BJP, Shyamdeb Roy Choudhury, Muslims UP polls, UP Polls Bengalis, India news BJP supporters in Varanasi. (Source: Twitter/@BJPLive)

The BJP may be a small player in West Bengal but it has deep roots in a “mini Bengal” in Varanasi. The city’s 12 lakh population includes about 80,000 Bengalis, spread over a string of neighbourhoods from Dashashwamedh ghat to Sonarpura. And the largest section is in Bengali Tola.

Many residents of Bangali Tola reaffirm their faith in the BJP, although they are upset that the party has denied the Varanasi South ticket to Shyamdeb Roy Choudhury, a seven-time MLA widely known as “Dada”.

“Whenever in trouble, we would approach Dada; he too often came to us. We do feel a sense of loss,” says Atul Sarkar, who runs a sweet shop. “But we have always been voting for the BJP, and will do so again,” Sarkar adds, days before voting Wednesday.

Conversely, there are some who feel the denial of Roy Choudhury has turned even non-Bengalis against the BJP. “Even some Muslims voted for Dada. He is such a nice person,” says Parvez Mallick at Muslim-dominated Golgadda. “Not only Bengalis but many sections of Hindus are unhappy, and are going against the BJP.”

Bengalis have been part of Varanasi for centuries — early settlers built most of the old houses on the riverbank — but the largest settlement happened after Partition. There is a Bangiya Samaj; Pandit Ravi Shankar and singer Hemanta Kumar were born here; Satyajit Roy’s Aparajito and Joi Baba Felunath are set in the city; Banarasi Durgotsav Sammelani has celebrated Durga Puja for 95 years and Kashi Durgotsav Samiti for 57.

The 80,000-odd Bengalis today represent only a fifth of the four lakh who once lived here, estimates Sarkar, the sweet shop owner. The more influential families have migrated to Kolkata. “There used to be many Bengali officers in railways and banks, and many in Banaras Hindu University and courts,” says Sarkar. Today, members of other communities own most of the old Bengali properties. “The community has become something of a minority. But one good thing has happened. Bengalis here are not very rigid about caste, even during marriage.”

What attracts the Bengalis of Varanasi to the BJP, when their counterparts elsewhere tend to lean either far left or towards the Trinamool Congress?

“Most Bengalis in Varanasi belong to the upper castes, mainly Brahmins,” explains Devashish Paul, who works with an NGO. “Then you mustn’t forget that they were religious and settled near the Ganga and Kashi Vishwnath. And the BJP is a party associated with the Hindu religion.”

Paul cites the example of Shambhunath Batul, who won many local body elections as an independent but lost when he contested as a Trinamool candidate.

Ajoy Mukherjee is the CPI candidate from Varanasi Cantonment. Ashok Satara, a Bengali youth, dismisses his chances: “No one else but Modiji will win here.”

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  1. A
    Mar 9, 2017 at 7:13 am
    Your days are numbered. if you dont stop sreading hatred than you will cease to exist.
  2. K
    Mar 9, 2017 at 4:50 am
    A rascalanda desh drohi.What else he will write.Days of such persons are numbered.They will get extinct.
  3. K
    Mar 9, 2017 at 4:21 am
    Saying Jai Bheem doesnot make your follower of Babasaheb. From your comment, one can easily make out failure to understand the basic premise on equality set in by Babasaheb. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Request you to raise bars of your thought process. Jai Hind.
  4. K
    Kim Sharma
    Mar 9, 2017 at 3:56 am
    Any party other than CPM is welcome. When will Bengalise realise their state was pauperised and made an Indian outback by CPM.? Usually people flock to metro cities for jobs. As CPM destro the state Kolkatans go to other cities -- even to extremities of India. Bengali means Labourer in a southern state do to labour influx from Bengal. CPM taught anti-Congressism to a generation of Bengalis and they paid for it. Either go for BJP or Congress. Of course BJP will teach you to hate your neighbour and engineer riots. The other alternative is the best for industrialistion, though they have their unique way of doing things.
  5. M
    mast kalandar
    Mar 9, 2017 at 6:27 am
    If Trinamool and Congress and all other sickular anti-hindu parties appease the muslims and teach them to suppress the bengali tradition and culture in bengal...then what else will the bengali hindus do! You appear to be a shrewd closet islamist for sure
  6. M
    mast kalandar
    Mar 9, 2017 at 6:28 am
    well said bro
  7. P
    Mar 9, 2017 at 2:35 am
    BJP is the only party that will truly integrate India. Everyone else is trying to come to power no matter what happens to Mother India and its unity. It is about time people see separatist threat from congress, SP, BSP, JDU as well as left leaning parties. They need to be kicked outof power and replaced by RSS and BJP. Whenever Hindu potion goes down in India, separatist forces try to divide mother India. They should never succeed.
  8. D
    Mar 9, 2017 at 3:04 am
    Vande Mataram
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