Residents of Varanasi generally begin celebrating Holi about a fortnight before the day of the festival of colours and this year was no different. Except for BJP workers.
They curbed their enthusiasm and waited until late on Saturday, just two days before Holi, until the party announced that its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would contest the Lok Sabha elections from this holy city.
Although the announcement was made around 10 pm, eager BJP workers and supporters began the countdown from around 8 pm at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, beating drums, bursting fire crackers and shouting, “Har Har Modi”.
The so-called “Narendra Modi army”, which had staged a dharna and launched a signature campaign demanding Modi contest from Varanasi, played Holi at the Sanatan Dharma temple at 6 pm and later burst crackers at the BJP’s Kashi region office.
Activity picked up around 9 pm outside the Kashi region office in the Gulab Bagh area, where leaders had arranged for crackers and drum players. As the minutes passed, about 200 supporters clapped, raised slogans, danced to the beat of drums, waved party flags and Modi posters, blew conch shells and threw colour.”
“After watching news reports on TV, we were sure Modiji would be our candidate”,” said BJP worker Kamlesh Kumar Mishra.
Shiv Sharan Pathak, a full-time RSS member who is in charge of the BJP office, said the enthusiasm of workers showed Modi would make a better candidate than serving MP Murli Manohar Joshi” “These youths can see a bright future for themselves under Mo’i’s leadershi”,” said Pathak, adding that workers had begun arriving at the office since noon to ask him about Modi’s name being announced.
Senior party leaders, however, were reserved through the day and were glued to TV news channels. They apparently did not want to speak their mind as they feared they would be in a spot if there was a last minute change and Joshi retained the seat. But they too began raising pro-Modi slogans closer to the announcement.
Dr Rakesh Trivedi, the party’s Kashi region vice-president and spokesperson, said with Modi contesting from Varanasi, the BJP would not only win this seat but also the 13 others in the Kashi region. The party had won only Varanasi in 2009.
State secretary of the BJP’s Samajik Nyay Morcha, Dinesh Maurya, said he was supporting Modi because the NDA government would focus on Varanasi, among the 20 districts of poorly developed Poorvanchal, if Modi became PM.”
“Hindu-Muslim polarisation will become stronger this time as Modi has become the symbol of Hindutva after the Gujarat rio”s,” said R N Pandey, who is one of those in charge of the election office Joshi had set u”. “A majority of the 3 lakh Muslims in Varanasi are Sunnis and they will not vote for BJP. In response, all Hindus will unite and vote for Modi.”
Joshi’s supporters had printed posters, cards and calendars with messages about his work and had even distributed some among people. Although that has gone waste, Pandey hoped Modi would use the same office for his campaign.
Joshi had defeated BSP candidate Mukhtar Ansari by a margin of around 17,000 votes in 2009. This time, the BSP has fielded Vijay Prakash Jaiswal and the Samajwadi Party ticket has gone to Kailash Chaurasiya.