People of this holy city, who elected him on the basis of his promises, will now vote after analyzing the work done. In talks with Moneycontrol, people discussed the hits and misses of the Modi government on the ground
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking re-nomination from Varanasi, the Uttar Pradesh town that sent the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader to Lok Sabha for the first time in 2014.
Five years ago, the BJP announced then Gujarat Chief Minister Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. Following this, he announced that he will contest from Varanasi, along with his bastion, Gujarat’s Vadodara.
Modi secured a massive win from both seats with a margin of 3.37 lakh votes and 5.70 lakh votes in Varanasi and Vadodara, respectively. He later quit the Vadodara seat and retained Varanasi as his constituency.
Entering the city of salvation, Modi had vowed to clean river Ganga. He further promised welfare of handloom weavers through technology upgradate, development of Kashi as spiritual capital of India, boost to tourism and other development projects. This was followed up with more project announcements after his victory.
Five years have passed and PM Modi is once again in the fray from Varanasi. However, the journey to retain power is different this time.
The people of this holy city, who elected him on the basis of his promises, will now vote after analyzing the work done. In talks with Moneycontrol, people discussed the hits and misses of the Modi government on the ground.
The city, under the governance of PM Modi, has witnessed "cosmetic changes" that make it beautiful but bring minimal benefit for the public, said some of the people we talked to.
"The administration has replaced old street lamp-posts with fancy ones, beautified platform number one of the Varanasi Cantt railway station, started a cruise on river Ganga, replaced high-voltage bulbs with LED lights. But these do not directly benefit the residents," said a professor of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) who did not wish to be named.
Absence of local representatives
Having PM Modi as its MP brought Varanasi on national and international platforms, but that can have a flip side too. "The PM is not reachable for the public. A local PM office was opened in the city, but it is of no use. People submit complaints and memorandums, but in most cases, they are disappointed as no action is taken," said the professor.
However, the local BJP leadership feels Modi is doing everything in his capacity. "PM Modi has visited the city 18 times in five years and every time, he has brought a basket of welfare schemes for the city. In his tenure, he has sanctioned Rs 34,000 crore for the city’s development," said Sanjay Bharadwaj, a local BJP leader.
Many schemes introduced by the Modi government in Varanasi remained experiments which failed to benefit the people or the city. According to locals, the PM launched battery-powered e-boats to reduce pollution in river Ganga, brought the Kashi-Kyoto project to develop Varanasi on the lines of heritage city Kyoto in Japan, started a Trade Facilitation Centre to bring better exposure to weavers and some other schemes. However, the schemes could not run properly and remained on paper, giving no benefits to the people in the long run.
Lack of sustainable development
The netizens of Varanasi agree that after the Modi government came to power, the condition of roads, cleanliness, beautification of ghats (river banks) and more such changes have been done. However, they feel lack of work done as per the status of a PM, like bringing industries, creating jobs, opening up of institutions, development of infrastructure and others.
Ring Road and Babatpur Airport road
The PM, on November 12, 2018, inaugurated two important roads in Varanasi having a total length of 34 km and built at a cost of Rs 1,571.95 crore. It included the 16.55 km Varanasi Ring Road Phase-I, built at a cost of Rs 759.36 crore, and the 17.25 km Babatput-Varanasi road on NH-56, constructed at a cost of Rs 812.59 crore.
While the Babatpur Airport highway reduces the travel time from Varanasi to the airport, the Ring Road lessens traffic congestion in the city.
Kashi Vishwanath Corridor
The Centre’s ambitious 'Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Vistarikaran-Saundarayakaran Yojana' (Kashi Vishwanath Temple Extension and Beautification Plan), or Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, is a Rs 600-crore project to decongest the area providing relief to devotees visiting Lord Shiva's shrine.
The project has angered people who have either lost their shops and homes or stand against the demolition of temples constructed in the way of the project. "I want to vote for PM Modi considering his work done on the national level, but he betrayed the people of Varanasi by launching the KV Corridor project that destroys the ancient look of the city," says a shopkeeper in the Vishwanath lane.
The popularity of PM Modi in Varanasi cannot be overlooked. A big section considers him the best person to be elected. While many consider his performance on the local and national level as a reason to vote for him, some cited the lack of better options.
Last time, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and Congress local leader Ajay Rai were his main contenders. However, so far no announcement has been made by either of the two parties or the SP-BSP alliance regarding the nomination of the candidate against Modi.
The city will vote in the seventh and last phase of Lok Sabha polls on May 19. The results will be declared on May 23.For the latest news and live updates, follow our LIVE blog