RAHUL’S ROAD-SHOW IN VARANASI: FIRST HALF OF MAY 10 – LAST DAY OF CAMPAIGNING IN VARANASI

GENERAL ELECTIONS 2014

The last day of campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Varanasi began with Rahul Gandhi’s road-show continuing the series of high voltage political drama that started unveiling in the religious and spiritual capital of India on May 7 when Amethi voted in the 8th phase of the polls.

Today’s road-show of Rahul Gandhi was less of a solidarity show for the Congress candidate from Varanasi, Ajai Rai, and more of a tit-for-tat reply to Narendra Modi’s election event in Amethi that drew huge crowd there.

Before Narendra Modi’s Amethi move, Ajai Rai was sounding like a lost voice on his demand for campaigning by the Nehru-Gandhi family and other top brass of the Congress party in the city. No one paid attention to him.

But Modi’s Amethi rally left the Congress party no option but to take charge directly against Modi in Varanasi in order to look and sound unfazed by the Modi Factor. And Rahul was chosen to lead the front for obvious reasons.

Anyway, given the pro-Modi sentiments in Varanasi and an intensive campaigning by Arvind Kejriwal, especially for the minority votes, the route of Rahul’s rally was chosen that covered areas with dense Muslim population, so as to move and mobilize the crowd to the road-show, from Peeli Kothi/Gol Gadda area (Muslim dominated localities) on the outskirts of the city (on the Rajghat side) to the Lanka gate of Banaras Hindu University. Then there were other Muslim dominated localities, Beniabagh, Nai Sadak and Madanpura, en-route to maintain the momentum.

And this strategy coupled with Ajai Rai’s local support did work to gather enough momentum to bring enough people to Rahul’s road-show. But, in totality, it was like the crowds seen during Kejriwal’s road-show yesterday, successful on election campaigning parameters, but no match to Modi’s massive show of strength in his road-show on May 8 that was technically not a road-show given the fact he was denied permission for the same and is now facing allegations of violating the Section 144.

But the success of Rahul’s road-show raises the obvious point – if not too little, it is certainly too late. Had it been held earlier, could it have helped Ajai Rai and Congress to position better against a formidable rival whose win from Varanasi is written beyond any doubt? Ajai Rai will be pinning his hope on the show now to help him become the Number 2 in the constituency.

Meanwhile, the routine political events continued. Other candidates continued with their campaigning. BJP pitched up its rhetoric against the Election Commission and the Varanasi district administration for allowing rallies of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav to pass through Beniabagh while denying Modi for the same. The Election Commission appointing a special poll observer for Varanasi is being seen as resulting from the pressure mounted by the BJP coupled with Election Commissioner HS Brahma’s stand criticising the Election Commission stand on the issue of Modi’s election events in Varanasi on May 8.

Then, further in the day – the day has in store two other big political events – a road-show by Akhilesh Yadav and another road-show by Arvind Kejriwal.

While the Akhilesh’s road-show has begun, reports say Kejriwal may not participate in the AAP road-show as he is not well. He did hold an election meeting in the Pandeypur area of the city in the first half of the day but his health may not permit him for the road-show before the campaigning ends at 5 PM.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MAY 9: DAY 3 IN VARANASI, BEFORE THE CAMPAIGNING ENDS ON MAY 10

GENERAL ELECTIONS 2014

May 9, the penultimate day of campaigning in Varanasi (before the campaigning ends on May 10) witnessed the expected high profile, high pitched political events.

Narendra Modi addressed five rallies, 2 in Eastern Uttar Pradesh (in Mirzapur and Ghazipur, adjoining areas of Varanasi) and 3 in Bihar, and the issue of denial of permission to his election events in Varanasi on May 8 was the major element in each.

BJP continued protesting and demanding the Varanasi DM’s removal. On the contrary, as reported, the DM sent a report to the Central Election Commission on Modi’s road-show yesterday on violation of Section 144.

The CEC maintained its stand on defending the acts of the DM. Meanwhile a report came that claimed that some security personnel from Gujarat had claimed security threat for Modi with Beniabagh rally venue.

The other major Varanasi-centric event of the day was Arvind Kejriwal’s road-show in Varanasi. Though some reports claimed the road-show attracted huge crowd, the situation on ground was not corresponding.

It was sad to see the surroundings when the road-show began. There were not enough people, not enough even to count for the reported 5000 AAP volunteers camping in the city, who have come to the city there from different parts of the city. Looking at the convoy and thinking of the window of opportunity that the AAP experiment could have been, it indeed felt like a sad day for the long awaited experiment with democracy in India.

Though, the road-show got more people on its sides as the evening progressed, it was in patches and was nowhere near to the consistent and spontaneous crowds seen May 8 evening during Narendra Modi’s road-show.

The day also saw an event that unfortunately, has become an AAP trademark – gaining publicity and sympathy through controversy by creating public spectacle. Raghu Ram, AAP member and MTV Roadies judge, alleged that he and Gul Panag were attacked (manhandled) by some BHU students.

Gul Panag later tweeted denying it. But the claim of manhandling with Mr. Raghu Ram maintained its stand. Now, it is to be seen in the context that Raghu Ram has had history of making such cheap publicity claims. In 2011, after claiming, he denied that his face was blackened by the ABVP activists. He cannot be trusted.

Instead, Banarasis and BHU should denounce such people who try to defame the place and its institutions. No doubt there are many faults and layers of wrongs with Banaras and BHU but none make for the kind of cheap allegations put forward by the AAP’s spokesperson and Raghu Ram.

Banaras is any thing but certainly not this – an unrestricted, unconstrained badland of uncontrolled people. AAP and other politicians should seek forgiveness for dragging BHU in this silly political game.

But it is not going to end here. Today’s events are going to be like it has been since May 7. Rahul Gandhi’s road-show is scheduled to begin this morning from the city’s outskirts on Rajghat’s side (Peeli Kothi) and will conclude at the Lanka Gate of BHU. And to add to the heat, there would be other planned and unplanned political events.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/