Varanasi has been a neglected constituency. The city has seen almost no development in the last 25 years.

The civic infrastructure is in mess. It is tainting its spiritual aspect, the lifeline of Banaras and the pivot of Indian Spiritualism.

There are no roads or there are roads trying to find the smooth patches on the continuum of concrete rubble that creates a hazy kaleidoscope when mixed with the dust found on every walkable stretch of the city, a panorama that obstructs the view and chokes the senses.

Varanasi is, technically, a metro city now for many years and the basic civic amenities that should be for a metro city that is also a global tourism attraction – piped water, piped gas, 24-hour electricity, a proper city transport, an efficient administration for health and educational facilities, a modern airport – these basic requirements are a far cry for the city that is one of the major contributors to India’s tourism earning; a city that is educational, spiritual and cultural hub; a city that is one of the very few places in the world having seen the shades of human civilization since the human civilization began.

And Varanasi’s tourism potential owes its genesis to the Ganga and Lord Shiva and the in-built religious and spiritual ecosystem around it.

But, the Ganga is as neglected as the whole city has been. Even an ardent devotee thinks twice before taking the dip in the holy water that flows through the ghats of Varanasi.

And politicians have been responsible for it.

Apart from the brief stints of the governments of Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh, Uttar Pradesh has had SP or BSP governments in the last 25 years or so.

But the city has chosen to continue with the BJP. Congress did win in 2004 but it was more of a BJP loss than a Congress win. The Varanasi parliamentary constituency has shown no interest in the two regional parties in these 25 years making the UP governments largely apathetic to the city’s concerns.

And the resultant attitude of the ruling political class has pushed the city to a development abyss.

To come out of it, keeping in mind the fact that there is still an SP government in Lucknow that is to continue till 2017, the city needs a political representative who can bring it back to the path of development; a political representative who is determined and resourceful enough to bypass the obstructions posed by the government of Lucknow.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –



The last day of campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Varanasi saw three road-shows apart from the routine political events.

Candidates from other parties (than Congress, BJP and AAP) continued with their campaign. 42 candidates are in fray including Kailash Chaurasia from the Samajwadi Paty and Vijay Jaiswal from the Bahujan Samaj Party. Though insignificant for the outcome, it was good for the SP candidate’s morale that he had road-show by Akhilesh Yadav on the last day of campaigning.

On follow-up developments, the 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.

Before it, the Election Commission appointed a special poll observer for Varanasi. The move is being seen as resulting from the pressure mounted by the BJP coupled with the Election Commissioner HS Brahma’s stand criticising the Election Commission on the issue of denial of permission to Modi’s election rallies in Varanasi on May 8. The EC raid on the BJP’s office in Varanasi today only added to bitterness.

On road-shows, the day began with Rahul Gandhi’s road-show that 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 rally in Amethi that saw a huge gathering.

On campaigning parameters, Rahul’s road-show was successful as was Akhilesh Yadav’s later in day and Kejriwal’s a day earlier. Both road-shows of the day were strategically planned to supply the supporters to the rallies from the different densely populated Muslim localities en-route.

And this strategy coupled with the local support of Ajai Rai and the Samajwadi Party did work to gather enough momentum to bring enough people to the two road-shows though some reports say Muslims did not enthusiastically participated in Akhilesh Yadav’s road-show (advantage Kejriwal?).

Then AAP held another road-show in the later half of the day which Arvind Kejriwal could not join due to bad health. Kejriwal did hold an election meeting in the Pandeypur area of the city in the first half of the day.

But, in totality, these road-shows were no match to Modi’s massive show of strength in his road-show on May 8. As even the road-show had no permission, he is now facing allegations of violating the Section 144.

The last day of campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Varanasi concluded with events adding to the high voltage political drama that started unveiling in the religious and spiritual capital of India on May 5 when Narendra Modi held an election rally in Amethi.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –



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 –



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 –



Modi’s road-show in Varanasi, from the helipad of Banaras Hindu University to the city office of the BJP, and the huge crowd moving with it is a classic case of how the decisions taken in frustration and panic boomerang – in this case the initial denial of the permission to the rallies of Narendra Modi in Varanasi and the subsequent flip-flop by the Varanasi district administration resulting in the delayed permission over Modi’s rallies that boomeranged and hit back massively.

And the way the BJP has exploited the developments, it shows undoubtedly a sound presence of mind and an equally sound campaign management by the BJP core team.

It is praiseworthy if seen from a neutral analytical perspective.

If seen from the campaign management angle, the refusal of the ‘delayed’ permission for Modi’s Beniabagh rally and Ganga Aarti by the BJP was a masterstroke, a deft move that resulted in an almost 5 Kms long road-show with people on both sides of the road that just ended after spending quite a long time (over 3 hours) on Varanasi roads.

And there was much more crowd on the roads and in the streets than it was visible on the TV screens.

The flip-flop by the district administration and also by the Election Commission gave the BJP an opportunity to create a media spectacle of playing the victim card that sidelined any possibility of the steps that the administration could have taken in the name of maintaining law and order situation asking Narendra Modi to avoid the road-show.

Managing the crowd at Narendra Modi’s rally was much easier than managing the people’s outpour throughout the stretch of Modi’s trip to the BJP office.

The fact that Modi’s caravan crisscrossed the city through its most crowded areas like Sonarpura, Shivala, Godowlia and Luxa, and that too, during the rush evening hours, when traffic moves inch by inch, only exacerbated the misery of the city administration as it could not say no to Modi after the fiasco yesterday.

Any more ‘no’ could have resulted in more protests by the BJP compounding the gains from the wave of sympathy (obviously due to the ‘victim card’ that the BJP earned yesterday) when the polls were just three days away.

And this trip, from the BHU helipad to the central election office of the BJP in Varanasi, that was technically not a road-show, indeed became a massive show of strength with people thronging the Modi cavalcade throughout the entire stretch.

Narendra Modi and the BJP score handsomely here.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –



Sympathy is always good for electoral politics. And when there is an issue to score sympathy midst an ongoing election, the beneficiary is going to be virtually unstoppable in exploiting the ends to gain the electoral mileage.

And the flip-flop by the Varanasi District Magistrate with a ‘Yadav’ surname yesterday on giving permission to Narendra Modi’s election events in Varanasi, with perceived elements of a sort of conspiracy hatched by the ruling Yadav family of Uttar Pradesh (if the BJP allegations are to be taken in account) was a perfect fodder for the BJP.

Narendra Modi has already won the Varanasi constituency. Main focus of the BJP is to maximize the impact of the Modi factor in the remaining seats of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to score as many wins as possible.

And the Varanasi DM’s flip-flop coupled with the Election Commission’s perceived inaction in the matter yesterday made the BJP charging them left, right and centre that prepared the ground for today’s acts on ground that began this morning and are expected to build by afternoon when Modi addresses a rally in Varanasi’s rural outskirt of Rohania.

BJP’s top guns and workers have taken to the streets in Varanasi and Delhi simultaneously. Central Elections Commission’s office in Delhi and Banaras Hindu University’s main gate in Varanasi, so far, have been the initiating points of mobilization. Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah are sitting on Dharna while Narendra Modi has slammed the Election Commission in an Azamgarh rally.

And all this is coupled with round the clock, minute-by-minute media coverage, reaching to the masses including the intended vote bank, something that the BJP and Narendra Modi would love to see happening. And add to this is yet another Narendra Modi interview scheduled on a national news channel this evening.

When would the Modi opponents learn that their desperate acts like these are helping Modi only? But, then, the time has already run out for them.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –



As expected, it has begun.

Amit Shah, the BJP UP in-charge and Narendra Modi’s lieutenant addressed a late night press conference yesterday slamming the District Magistrate of Varanasi, who is also the Returning Officer of Varanasi.

The day saw high pitched protests and pressers by the BJP top brass against the Varanasi DM for denying permission to Narendra Modi rallies in the city, especially at the Benia Bagh Park. Many letters were dashed to the Election Commission demanding action against the DM. Arun Jaitley was on the job till late evening.

The late night presser of Amit Shah was to hit back at the DM after his ‘delayed’ permission late in the evening that left the BJP with no time to manage the Modi rallies tomorrow. Obviously, the ‘Yadav’ surname of Varanasi DM gives the BJP enough edge to sound victimized in this case.

But the war cry the BJP has successfully managed to raise on the issue is basically about the larger picture covering the canvassing base in the remaining seats of the Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that are to vote on May 12 in the last phase of the General Elections 2014.

Narendra Modi’s victory in Varanasi is an unambiguous outcome, irrespective of the time he has devoted in the city or is to devote in the city. He won the constituency the day he decided to contest from it. The only factor to be seen here is his margin of victory.

Whatever were the intentions and the reasons of the District Magistrate of Varanasi, it gave the BJP an opportunity and they grabbed it, and exploited it efficiently.

Whatever reasoning the Samajwadi Party might have had for pushing the city DM (if it was so, as alleged), it is going to help the BJP only.

And the developments related to the episode have enough fuel to add significantly to the BJP’s possible protests today.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –



Though Priyanka Gandhi has said she would not campaign in Varanasi, it cannot be said that some other big name of the Congress party’s first family won’t go to Varanasi before the campaigning in the city ends on May 10. And some reports say Rahul Gandhi is going to hold a road show there on May 9 or 10.

With the Amethi polls over by this evening, the Varanasi-centric focus of campaigning in Eastern Uttar Pradesh is going to witness scaled up and some ugly war of words before the last round of the Lok Sabha polls 2014 on May 12.

Varanasi was already an epicenter of the BJP strategy as the seat directly or indirectly affects the outcomes on around 40 seats in Eastern UP and the adjoining areas of Bihar. And therefore, campaigning has been heavily Varanasi centric.

But the candidature of Smriti Irani from Amethi did add problems to the Congress party and Priyanka Gandhi had to campaign intensively to let the way remain smooth for Rahul Gandhi. And to add to it, a big BJP name like Smriti Irani did bring the topmost BJP names including Narendra Modi to Amethi to canvass for her.

But Varanasi remained the hotspot.

And with Amethi election over, and with Narendra Modi having campaigned in Amethi, Varanasi is going to see some mad rush of last hour election campaigning. If reports say Rahul Gandhi is going to be there, to settle scores with Narendra Modi, to tell others that the Congress party is not the passive mover and can hit back, equally and vehemently, we are having something brewing to be spilled over.

Big Muslim leaders from Congress and UPA including Salman Khurshid, Ghulam Nabi Azad, K Rahman Khan and Nawab Malik are camping in Varanasi to mobilize the Muslim votes against Narendra Modi. Other Congress names will certainly make their presence counted, especially after Rahul’s proposed pitch. Modi is expected to hold road shows and rallies there. Arun Jaitley is camping in the city to hammer the final plan. Shivraj Singh Chouhan held a rally there. Many other names are scheduled to make appearance. Arvind Kejriwal has already reached Varanasi to push together his last concerted efforts.

And the way the war of words has become Modi Vs Priyanka, Modi Vs Rahul, BJP Vs Congress and BJP Vs Others, some unpleasant high decibel uncalled for tune is going to flow in the city of temples till the campaigning ends on May 10.

May 7 to 10 – these four days are going to generate some high voltage political events in the religious and spiritual capital of India that could lower the norms of political decorum even more.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –



A week is left. Varanasi is to vote in the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections on May 12. Before that, some big seats of Eastern UP including Amethi and Sultanpur are going to polls on May 7 and that leaves Varanasi battleground free for the last rush of verbal assaults.

But, as the time before the voting day in Varanasi is almost over, the clear picture has become even more visible.

Arvind Kejriwal’s campaign has lost its steam, like it has happened everywhere else with AAP candidates. The gloom is evident with first Arvind Kejriwal and now Yogendra Yadav accepting that ‘quitting the Delhi government decision’ misfired.

Mukhtar Ansari, the number 2 in 2009 elections realized his precarious condition that even if all the Muslim votes polarised in his favour, he was staring at a humiliating loss in the absence of any mainstream political party ticket backing him thus devoiding him of the Hindu votes. This development coupled with strong pro-Narendra Modi sentiments among the Hindu voters of Varanasi were clearing signals for him and found his exit route.

The Congress candidate Ajai Rai, a Bhumihar by caste and considered a strongman is no match to Modi’s electoral stature. He is facing revolt in his family and in the larger Bhumihar community of the constituency counting for over 1,50,000 votes on opposing Narendra Modi and taking support of Mukhtar Ansari who is alleged to be involved in the murder of Awadhesh Singh, elder brother of Ajai Rai and a local don of influence. Mukhtar is also facing allegations of masterminding the murder of another Bhumihar BJP MLA of Varanasi, Krishnanand Rai, in 2005.

Likewise, the SP and the BSP candidates are no challenges to Modi and can be done away with even without naming them in the electoral discourses on Varanasi.

And as the campaign in Varanasi has progressed, the Modi factor in the city has become even more biting on the electoral health of his political rivals in the city.

The overall national projections of Narendra Modi, the BJP and the NDA showing a clear positive swing and a possibility of clear majority for an NDA-led Union Government have added to the polarising personality of Narendra Modi in Varanasi and it was evident from the huge crowd that welcomed him on his nomination day last month. That strength of the crowd was certainly not a managed one and anyone who studies and obverses the election management practices can vouch for it.

Narendra Modi’s victory in Varanasi was there from the day 1, when his candidature was announced.

And like every other article on Modi’s electoral prospects in Varanasi, this one, too, needs to end with the only question that matters for Modi’s political stature and his Varanasi candidature – the margin of his victory – and Modi looks to have consolidated his position to widen the gap.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –



Mukhtar Ansari decided to quit the battlefield of Varanasi saying he did so to consolidate the secular votes against Modi.

But it is going to help Modi only. And therefore, we have reports analysing the possible behind the scene deal between the BJP and Mukhtar on it.

That may, may not be. Mukhtar would have got Muslim votes only this time because he would not be contesting on a BSP ticket, and therefore was not to get the traditional BSP votes.

Mukhtar Ansari, who is in jail in the case of a BJP MP murder, is a polarising figure and carries the ability to polarise Muslim votes in his area, the belt of Ghazipur-Mau (he is contesting from Ghosi that covers Mau district) that extends to Varanasi as well. He has been openly communal in his acts and is facing charges of inciting religious violence.

The Muslim electorate in Varanasi, in 2009, should have been around 3,00,000, if we go by the 2014 numbers (~3.5 lakh). In 2009 polls, when Mukhtar contested on BSP ticket, he got around 1,85,000 votes. In addition to that, Mukhar got the traditional BSP votes, too. That made him a close second to Murli Manohar Joshi who won by just over 17,000 votes. What we need to keep in mind here is the low polling percentage of around 42% in 2009. It was largely due to the BJP MPs failing to perform on a seat that happens to be a BJP stronghold for quite some time now.

This time, with a clear Modi factor, the polling percentage is expected to be significantly higher. And Modi’s capacity to polarise the Hindu votes across the country is going to bring the larger pie of over 12 lakh non-Muslim votes in Varanasi to the Lotus.

And in absence of SP/BSP tag, coupled with expected higher voter turnout in favour of Modi, Mukhtar was staring at a lower tally than the last time. There was very clear chance of it being even a humiliating defeat. That would never be good for a person who wields his power on fear.

Therefore, his proclamation of ‘not contesting from Varanasi to avoid the division of secular votes’ sounds more like an exit route from an already decided defeat that is going to be bigger this time.

Yes, his exit can help Arvind Kejriwal, Ajai Rai and others with increased vote count by diverting the Muslim votes to them.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –