BJP, INDIA alliance go all out in Purvanchal, including key seat of Varanasi

BJP claims that Opposition is calling for “vote jihad”, plans to bring in religion-based quotas; SP pushes for OBC, Dalit unity in social justice pitch; PM vows to change the image of Purvanchal, “growth engine of India”

Updated - May 27, 2024 08:19 am IST

Published - May 26, 2024 11:00 pm IST - LUCKNOW

A child holds a placard depicting PM Modi and BJP election symbol during a public meeting addressed by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for Lok Sabha polls, in Varanasi, Saturday, May 25, 2024.

A child holds a placard depicting PM Modi and BJP election symbol during a public meeting addressed by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for Lok Sabha polls, in Varanasi, Saturday, May 25, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Varanasi seat is among the thirteen Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh going to the polls in the seventh and final phase of the election. As campaigning heats up in the political battleground of Purvanchal or eastern U.P.), top leaders are not hesitating to bring controversial issues to the forefront.

Also read:India General Elections LIVE updates, May 27, 2024

Mr. Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and U.P. CM Yogi Adityanath led the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) offensive, alleging that the Opposition INDIA alliance is appealing for “vote jihad”. They claimed that the Opposition wants to rewrite the Constitution to provide reservations based on religion, and that they want to turn the country’s majority community into second-class citizens.

Apart from Varanasi, the constituencies going to the polls on June 1 are Maharajganj, Gorakhpur, Kushi Nagar, Deoria, Bansgaon, Ghosi, Salempur, Ballia, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Mirzapur, and Robertsganj. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP and its ally the Apna Dal had won 11 of these seats, while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which was then in alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) won two seats.

Pitching OBC, Dalit unity

In the 2024 election, the BJP’s Pankaj Chaudhary is facing Virendra Chaudhary from the Congress in Maharajganj. In the prestigious Gorakhpur seat, once synonymous with Mr. Adityanath, the sitting BJP MP Ravi Kishan is taking on SP candidate Kajal Nishad. The Nishad community, who are in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, have a sizeable presence in the constituency, and the SP trying to repeat its success in the 2018 bypoll, when its Nishad candidate Praveen Kumar Nishad had emerged victorious against the BJP’s Upendra Dutt Shukla. The SP has been pitching aggressively in the region for a caste census, pushing for a broader unity of OBC and Dalit social groups.

The prestigious seat of Varanasi will witness Ajay Rai of the Congress challenging Mr. Modi again. In 2019, the Prime Minister had emerged victorious by over 4,78,000 votes, defeating Shalini Yadav of the SP, while Mr. Rai came third. In Ballia, once associated with former PM Chandra Shekhar, the BJP has fielded his son Neeraj Shekhar to take on Sanatan Pandey of the SP. In 2019, Mr. Pandey lost by just 15,000-odd votes. In Ghazipur, another key eastern U.P. seat which has a long history of social conflict, the sitting BSP MP Afzal Ansari is contesting on an SP ticket against Paras Nath Rai of the BJP and Umesh Singh of the BSP.

‘Growth engine of India’

In his campaign, Mr. Modi said that the BJP would change the image of Purvanchal, adding that the dream of ‘Viksit Bharat’ would be fulfilled through eastern U.P. He alleged that Opposition parties remained silent when their South Indian allies abused and humiliated the people of U.P. “Purvanchal is the growth engine of not only U.P. but also of entire India. Phenomenal work is done in the last decade but more work will be done which will change the picture of the region completely,” the PM added.

Opposition parties pushed a social justice pitch, claiming that the BJP would be defeated across the region. “We are going to completely wipe out the BJP from Purvanchal. The way the PDA (Backwards, Dalits and Minorities) family is supporting, it seems that the INDIA alliance is going to win all seats in the remaining phase,” said the SP president Akhilesh Yadav, ridiculing the “400 paar” slogan of the BJP. “I can say with confidence that they will fail to cross 140 seats,” said Mr. Yadav, in Gorakhpur.

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