Why BJP faces a tough fight in Varanasi

Seema Gupta
Seema GuptaFeb 28, 2017 | 20:19

Why BJP faces a tough fight in Varanasi

The Uttar Pradesh elections are a litmus test for the BJP in more ways than one. The party's prime campaigner and prime minister Narendra Modi's constituency Varanasi is proving troublesome for the party, with the local unit getting divided.

Initially, Modi had with much fanfare promised to clean up the Ganga - the Namami Gange Project was planned - but nothing much came out of that because of the fight between the state and the Centre. To conquer Varanasi, the BJP has now made a plan based on caste politics, turncoats and alliances.


Varanasi has eight constituencies. BJP won three of eight seats in the town area in the 2012 elections, while two went to SP, two to BSP and one to the Congress in rural areas. The BJP is trying to make inroads into the rural belt of Kashi, but it will struggle to retain its city seats.

Varanasi is going to the polls in the last phase of the election on March 8. 

Caste politics prevails in city seats

The BJP draws confidence from Brahmin, Thakur and Vaishya-Baniya voters in the city, while other parties are banking on Muslims, Dalits, Kurmis and Yadavs. The Congress is trying to make a cut in BJP's upper-caste votebank and has fielded strong Brahmin candidates in the city to give a good fight.

The saffron party is troubled with rebellion in the city units. Of three MLAs in the city, one has been replaced, one has been retained and the third seat has been given to the sitting MLA's son. Shyam Dev Rai Chaudhary, a seven-time MLA, has been replaced with a fresh Brahmin face, Neilkanth Tiwari.

This is attributed to protests against state president Keshav Prasad Maurya and matters peaked to such a point that party president Amit Shah had to douse the fire in the local unit and balance the caste equation. Phase 5 election in UP may give the BJP benefit of non-Yadav OBC votes, which may trouble SP. But only time will tell.


Shah's plan is not only to prevail over the city voters but also increase BJP's tally to five seats. One can see the desperation of the BJP in its move to shift its headquarters from Lucknow to Varanasi last week.

Village adopted by Modi, Jayapur, becomes prestige issue

The Sevapuri constituency got famous for having Jayapur, a model village adopted by Modi under Sansad Gram Yojna. To conquer this important seat, BJP's Kurmi alliance partner Apna Dal's candidate is contesting. 

Jayapur did see some good days but as of now, interlock roads have been constructed but all tiles are broken. Solar chargers have been installed but the batteries have been stolen. Toilets were made but no water supply was arranged. Overhead watertanks were made with no water. So development arrived but did not reach the poor.

There are many issues on ground zero but parties are preferring caste. It would be interesting to see what people will vote for. Apna Dal also had differences with BJP over the Rohaniya seat, on which they wanted their own candidate but later, a BJP candidate was given a ticket.

While Modi is already an MP from Varanasi, selling dreams to the people again in his name seems difficult now.

Rebels and inner sabotage may ruin BJP's prospects


Dissatisfaction over ticket distribution is the one big issue BJP needs to handle. Varanasi south MLA of BJP Shyamdev Roy Choudhary calls it a conspiracy against him. Fondly called Dada, he is really upset with the ticket distribution. Another sitting MLA's son was given tickets - this also put the BJP workers in a spot. They expressed their unhappiness to Amit Shah and state president Keshav Prasad Maurya as well.

Another sitting MLA Jyotsana Srivastav has been compensated by giving the seat to Saurabh Srivastava from Varanasi Cantt. Varanasi South is the only seat that had been given to sitting MLA Ravindra Jaiswal. But here also an old BJP hopeful, Sujeet Singh Teeka, stood as Independent against him.

Turncoat Swami Prasad Maurya's close associates and sitting MLA Udaylal Mourya from BSP has also been allegedly ditched by the BJP and the Shivpur seat ticket given to another turncoat, Anil Rajbhar. BJP also thought of clearing BSP SC seat Ajgera by having an alliance with Bhartiya Samaj Party of Kailash Nath Sonkar.    

Ganga maiyya still dirty

Apart from cosmetic beautification of the Varanasi Ghats, nothing has changed in the Ganga. The National Green Tribunal in a hearing in February said: “Not a single drop of the Ganga has been cleaned so far.” It slammed government agencies for wasting public money. Water pollution still remains at the same level. No new sewers have been made.

The Namami Gange Project is yet to fly as central minister Uma Bharati talked of problems created by the state's Akhilesh Yadav government. A budget of around Rs 2,000 crore was allocated for it, and who can forget Modi's visuals at the Benaras Ghats; but nothing has changed in three years. 

The lack of groundwork by local MLAs may prevent BJP from gaining the faith of localities. The MLAs have not popularised the Centre's projects and the present candidates doesn't have much voter base - they only talk about Modi.

Demonetisation has hurt Vaishya-Baniya voters. In the name of development, roads are being dug up all over the city, while the Hindu voters are also unhappy over BJP's silence on the lathi-charge during the immersion of Durga statue at Gagolia choraha.  

BJP asking votes in the name of "parivartan"

While Modi is already an MP from Varanasi, selling dreams to the people again in his name seems difficult now, especially since not much has been done in the name of development. Rajnath Singh in his recent visit tried to get votes in the name of "parivartan", but it is likely to only sink the party in UP.

Modi will really have to work hard in the last round of campaigning on March 4 and 5.

Last updated: February 28, 2017 | 20:55
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