first_imgAfter five years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi representing Varanasi, has the constituency changed for the better? Has it become cleaner? Has it been transformed into a Kyoto as Modi had promised? Are the weavers better off? Is the air less polluted? Has the river Ganges become cleaner? Is the infrastructure better? The jury will be out on May 23 when results come. Modi filed his nomination on April 26 to represent Varanasi for the second time. He has stuck to Varanasi and the Modi frenzy was in full swing at the mega roadshow on April 25. Also Read – A special kind of bondA visit to Varanasi reveals that Modi has done a lot but it is still ‘work is in progress’, as Professor A K Shrivastava of the Benares Hindu University claims. I found that Varanasi stands divided between those who support Modi’s ambitious developmental push and those who oppose it. In 2014, he had promised a metro, a monorail, six-lane highways, flyovers, satellite towns, 24-hour electricity and water, a clean Ganges, luxury cruises on the Ganges, solid waste management and other developmental works. Modi’s supporters point out that he has not only focused on improving roads but also improved the overall infrastructure in and around Varanasi. The Multi-Modal Terminal and the Trade Facilitation Centre, heritage lights installed across Varanasi are some examples. On paper, Modi has brought about Rs 30,000 crores worth projects in these five years. Also Read – Insider threat managementThe first thing that strikes you after landing at the Lal Bahadur Shastri airport is a four-lane road to the city with three flyovers. Our cab driver Kamalesh points out that it takes just 45 minutes to reach the city as compared to three hours earlier. A clear view of the Ganga, broadened roads, flyovers and bridges welcome you as you enter Varanasi. But there are no signs of posters and elections are low key. According to Anand Chaube, a staunch Modi supporter the improvements include gas pipeline, the Ring Road, bridges over the Ganga and the Varuna. But Modi’s critics point out that roads are dug up for laying underground cables. The city is dotted with filth, bumpy roads with potholes and crumbling bridges. The Congress candidate Ajay Rai notes that sanitation has improved, but the poor drainage system is another problem. Rai is critical of a dedicated Viswanath corridor to the temple. The project involves a 50 feet wide pathway after demolishing around 250 structures, some built in 17thcentury. The Rs 600crore project will create 45,000 square metres of prime space. I found that some of the residents from whom the houses were bought are not happy. Some religious leaders have also opposed the project. They claim that the project is trampling ‘Kashi’s soul’. From the Muslim side, Mufti Maulana Abdul Batin Nomani is concerned about the security of masjid adjacent to the temple. The RSS leader Ramesh and the VHP leader Divakar claim that the pilgrims are now able to move about freely. Incidentally, a visit to the temple proves pilgrims welcome this corridor. The boatmen who take you around the 90 Ghats are great fans of Modi. Showing the installation of lights on the riverfront, our boatman Mahesh Saini is proud of the improvements in the Ghats. “Modi ji ne bahut kaam kiya” he says. There is a visible difference in Assi, Dasaawamedh and a few other Ghats. The Alaknanda, the 60-seater luxury vessel floated by Nordic Cruise Line, offers breathtaking cruises on the Ganges. But the Samajwadi candidate Shalini Yadav notes that not far away from the Assi Ghats most of Varanasi’s waste spills into the Ganga. More than 3/4th of the total sewage generated in the city is being dumped in the Ganga through Assi and other drains. Varanasi is also faced with severe pollution problem. Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, the mahant of Sankatmochan temple, is the most vocal voice on lack of sewage system, Ganga cleaning etc. Modi had announced a Rs. 21,000 crore plan to clean up the river with Rs.600 crore specially allotted for his constituency Varanasi. Haji Habibullah, a Muslim weaver points out that the famous Benarasi silk industry is almost on the verge of collapse because of the mass-produced garments and the Chinese competition. There are about six lakhs weavers in the city; most of them Muslims, and many have abandoned their profession because it was no longer profitable. Modi’s Mudra loan schemes have helped them but the number of beneficiaries is falling. They have difficulty in filling out the forms for the GST, as most weavers are illiterate. Modi has no challengers in Varanasi. The BJP and RSS workers are complacent. Ajay Rai and Shalini Yadav are weak candidates. Had Priyanka Gandhi contested, there would have been some contest. The only debate now is the margin of victory for Modi. He had won in 2014 with a margin of over 580,000 votes. Modi told his supporters after filing nomination: “Mother Ganga will take care of me.” (The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img

Nursing grievances
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