Varanasi: Pessimists badly outnumber optimists in any stock taking here as Prime Minister Narendra Modi completes a year as its five-star MP who promised a makeover but hasn’t delivered so far.
Amitabha Bhattacharya, bureau chief of Northern India Patrika and the doyen of journalists in the PM’s constituency, has a sharp mind and a sharper tongue.
“The bubbly optimism of Modi’s men reminds me of a character in Syed Mustafa Siraj’s writing who wets his bed because he saw a tiger in his dream – like fear, expectation can be illusory”, Bhattacharya told Firstpost with the outspoken candour of a 70-year-old chronicler.
But Laxman Acharya, who played a key role in Modi’s victory and is now president of BJP’s Kashi Zone covering 14 Lok Sabha seats, is sure that a golden future is in store for Modi’s constituency, which he repeatedly refers to as Kashi instead of Varanasi or Banaras.
“First and foremost, the number of visitors flocking to Kashi has increased phenomenally”, Acharya, a RSS pracharak who taught at Saraswati Shishu Mandir earning the title, told Firstpost.
“The Modi tag has turned Kashi into a magnet and the influx of tourists is generating mega bucks. Kashi had lost its importance and significance. But Modi has revived Kashi’s position as the rashtrapati (Leader of the Nation). And from this springboard, he will make India the Vishwaguru (Leader of the World),” he said.
Acharya, who recently became a Member of Legislative Council or the upper house of the Uttar Pradesh assembly, can be forgiven for going over the top. Tourist footfall has actually increased by 10-15 percent with Gujaratis making a beeline for Varanasi, admit tour operators.
“Thanks to tourist dollars, Kashi is now destined to witness record growth. Before long, Varanasi will realise that it has won a lottery by electing Modi as its representative,” he said.
However, objectively speaking, Modi’s first year report card is quite unimpressive. Beyond the cleanliness drive at two of the city’s 84 ghats, introduction of funeral vehicles, a boat for ferrying the dead to the ghats for cremation, and some improvement in power supply, Varanasi is just as chaotic, dirty and smelly as before.
Vidhwambhar Nath Mishra, electronics professor at the Banaras Hindu University and hereditary head priest of Sankat Mochan temple, remarked that Modi has exhausted one-fifth of his term as MP but has virtually nothing to show for it.
“For eight years Varanasi has been dug up like nobody’s business on the pretext of modernising and beautifying it. But the pace of rebuilding hasn’t accelerated after Modi was elected MP. Eight years of harassment is a long time in citizens’ life. Modi must ensure that their suffering comes to an end,” Mishra said.
Modi hasn’t visited Varanasi in 2015 so far. Defending his absence, Shiv Sharan Pathak, who heads the team manning Modi’s constituency office, told Firstpost that a system is in place to ensure that Modi fulfils his obligations as MP without being physically present.
Ironically, AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, who lost to Modi, had vowed to serve Varanasi irrespective of his victory or defeat in the election. However, he has been absconding since his defeat. His supporters expected him to visit Varanasi after becoming the chief minister if Delhi, but he didn’t.
The Muslim community, that constitutes 17 percent of the Varanasi electorate, still remain cuts off from Modi. For a whole year there have been no efforts to win them over. But just before the anniversary, Najma Heptullah and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi – the Muslim ministers in Modi’s government – paid a flying visit to assure Muslim weavers that a trade facilitation centre and crafts museum promised by the Prime Minister would see the light of day.
The family of Varanasi’s most famous Muslim, Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan who died in 2006, don’t regret turning down the BJP’s request for one of the shehnai maestro’s sons to propose Modi’s name to contest as an MP.
“We asked to be excused when BJP mayor Ram Gopal Mohale approached us as Khan Sahab was never into politics,” Afaque Haidar, Bismillah Khan’s grandson told Firstpost.
“Or let’s say that as an artiste he was above party politics. And that’s why we deliberately refrained from becoming one of Modi’s proposers, although we welcomed him to our city with full respect and courtesy befitting his stature,” he said.
Haidar said that regardless of his family’s decision not to back Modi’s candidature, the Prime Minister should do everything within his powers for Varanasi’s Muslims “because he is no longer the chief minister of Gujarat but our elected MP and the country’s prime minister.”
Modi’s promise to turn Varanasi into a Kyoto – the Japanese temple town that has become a global template for marrying heritage with ultra-modern amenities – elicited snide remarks from an unlikely quarter even as the Varanasi BJP finalised plans to celebrate Modi’s completion of one year as MP.
Murli Manohar Joshi, the ex-Varanasi MP who had to make way for Modi, asked a BHU audience during a seminar on “integrated humanism, cultural nationalism” on May 5 whether they wanted “a Kyoto standing on a pile of garbage?”
He added that ring roads, highways and metro (which Modi has promised) are fine, “but what about basic transportation infrastructure?”
“The day is not far off when Modi will import bottles of air from Kyoto and uncork them in Varanasi – that’s how he is going to live up to his promise of transforming Varanasi into Kyoto,” Bhattacharya, bureau chief of Northern India Patrika, said sarcastically.
Off the record, even BJP members admit that Modi’s inability to deliver on his pledges might cost the party dearly in the UP assembly elections.
New Delhi: In the year the creator of the ubiquitous yet speechless common man, RK Laxman, died, the real common man has found his voice through the common man’s party. The historic win of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi Assembly Election 2015 with a verdict that will ensure it will never have to abandon the seat of power, proves that the way the common man voted in this country so far has changed for good.
“It’s is the victory of none other than the aam aadmi (common man)” – is what could be heard throughout East Patel Nagar – the headquarters of the AAP, with a sea of people all around greeting one another.
While thanking the party workers and the people of Delhi, Kejriwal from the balcony of his party office said, “We shouldn’t become arrogant after this verdict. It’s arrogance that has reduced the Congress and the BJP to this state. We’ve to serve the people with folded hands (Haath jod kar humey sewa karni hai). Otherwise people will reduce us to the same state after five years.”
Celebrations outside the AAP office in Delhi. Naresh Sharma/ Firstpost
The results showed 67 seats for the AAP (declared and leading) and three for the BJP. The Congress scored a grand total of zero.
Much before the results started pouring in and the trends showed AAP candidates much ahead and celebrations began outside the East Patel Nagar office of the party and at the park opposite it. Revellers shouted slogans, showered rose petals and waved the national flag.
The jubilation in the locality and outside the Patel Nagar metro station was mind-boggling. An unusual scene on the streets of Patel Nagar was the sea of white topis (caps) as far as the eye could see. Autowallahs, e-rickshaw drivers and cycle rickshaw pullers were all sporting the white AAP topi and shouting the party’s slogan: “Paanch Saal Kejriwal” (Five years for Kejriwal).
Ramprasad, a cycle rickshaw puller ferrying this correspondent from the East Patel Nagar office of the Aam Aadmi Party to the metro station, said, “Yeh humari jeet hai (This is our victory). Finally, a right man, Arvind Kejriwal has been elected to be the chief minister of Delhi.”
It was equally chaotic situation around the AAP office. People, volunteers and followers could be seen showering rose petals and cheering with blue balloons, cut-outs of Kejriwal and the party’s symbol the jhaadu (brooms).
Pankaj Gupta, a senior AAP leader and a key strategist for the party told Firstpost: “We were definite about getting 50 seats as Yogendra Yadav had projected. But today’s result speaks about the faith that the Delhi voters reposed in us. They really understand who to vote for. They can’t be fooled by false claims. People have voted for us knowing that the AAP would deliver what it has committed to. Now, we have a lot of pressure on us. We have to perform and assure Delhiites that we would deliver what we had promised.”
Among those on the streets of Delhi, many were jubilant over the AAP’s victory.
Riyazuddin, an auto-rickshaw driver said: “Ye jeet logon ki mohabbat ka nateeza hai (This win is the result of the people’s love). All autowallahs unanimously voted for AAP.”
Shamshad Khan, another autorickshaw driver who came from Okhla to the AAP headquarters to be a part of the historic moment, said,“This is the result of Kejriwal’s 49-day government, as we saw its effects ourselves. This time, physically challenged, ill and the old, all came out to vote in large numbers and that is why AAP has got such a phenomenal victory.”
Amidst a huge cheering crowd of AAP members, volunteers, local residents and people from other parts of Delhi who were a part of the victory celebration, a sexagenarian couple from East Patel Nagar was found moving around with blue balloons.
The woman, 62-year-old Asha Jain, said, “People in Delhi are tired of Congress. The BJP can’t do anything as it has proved in the functioning of the municipal corporation. The best option was AAP and the voters took a chance by bringing in AAP with a majority.”
Her husband, 66-year-old AK Jain, “This landslide victory is the result of people’s anger. The days of speeches and rhetoric are over.”
Another senior citizen Vinay Aneja from nearby Ramesh Nagar said, “We expect the promises made by AAP to be delivered soon, people have voted for change from regular parties over the traditional ones. However, we also wish to see Arvind Kejriwal spending his time on making Delhi a better state and not just on agitations, dharnas and blame games as what happened during his last 49 days tenure.”
Link to article – Who said what: ‘Always tried to convince Bedi ji to join politics’, says Kejriwal