Uttar Pradesh 2017

Every man a pundit in political Varanasi

Last lap: Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets BJP supporters during his road show in Varanasi on Monday.

A day after the exit poll projections and a day before the poll outcome, the holy city of Varanasi on Friday had just one question: who would play Holi, the festival of colour, this time?

Benaras or Varanasi is famous for its signature Holi played with rang aur bhang, mun aur mijaj (colour and cannabis, mood and mind-set). The city is also well-known for its love of politics. Its people love to discuss and debate issues. They can analyse anything from Donald Trump’s “American First” policy to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day all-out campaign in the city.

It was just 7.30 a.m. but inside the dark room that is Pappu’s famous tea shop at Assi Chowk, not less than 25 people were sitting on creaky wooden benches at yellow formica topped tables while some sat on benches by the roadside and yet others stood around to join the intense political discussion on the Assembly poll results scheduled for Saturday.

Political hub

“It’s been a regular affair… everyday they make someone a new chief minister and dethrone others; by evening they even come to the exact number of seats for each party and by late night, they would sign off saying, this time its been a real tough contest to predict,” Manoj Kumar, son of the ageing owner Pappu, told The Hindu .

“If you frequent Pappu’s tea shop, you don’t have to read newspapers or watch TVs for news… it’s all being explained here in detail,” said local Congress leader Satyendra Sharma. Ajay Kumar Tripathi, representative of local BJP MLA Ravindra Jaiswal echoed this.

But has Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav become shaky after the exit poll projections to announce a possible alliance with the BSP?

Arre , these exit poll projection by media wallas are all just bunkum… you tell me did they prove right in Bihar in 2015?...Exit poll projections are all sponsored and time pass (like we do here sometime),” said Awadhesh Narayan Singh, a middle-aged patron. with a big smear of sandal on his forehead. “No..no don’t go by my tikka. ..I’m a khaanti Congressi ( a hardcore Congress supporter),” he added.


So, what will happen on Saturday? “You can write in your newspaper that SP-Congress alliance will form the government…All the Modi show will be a flop show…For how long will a single star pull through a movie at the box-office when others fail to work?” asked Mr Singh.

Young BJP worker Madhukar Anand hurriedly took his last sip of the tea and countered Mr Singh. “Its true after a long spell of hibernation, Congress leaders this time got a chance to come out on the streets, riding pillion on the Samajwadi Party’s bi-cycle but that doesn’t mean you will reach Lucknow to form the government…PM Modi alone is enough to bring his party to power in U.P. without any outside support... Just wait for 24 hours,” asserted Mr Anand.

“No matter who forms the government, they cannot do it without the support of BSP… Behan Mayawati will be the real queen-bee this time,” interjected Subhas Nishad, an alumni of Benaras Hindu University.

Across the city

And, after an hour or so the debate got more intense and loud, much to the amusement of two elderly French tourists, brought to Pappu’s for tea by their local guide. “Its Holi time so don’t take them seriously …This is Kashi (another name for Varanasi) and it has its own munaurmijaj, ” quipped Satish Kumar, Manoj’s brother.

Snaking through the cheaper guest houses, swank hotels, box-shaped brick houses, shuttered shops, exposed drains, past cows, bulls, goats and stray dogs to the river front, the discussions among people flipping through the morning newspapers were the same: will PM Narendra Modi visit his Parliamentary constituency to add another spell of colour or would Akhilesh bhaiya ride in to the Kashi Vishwanath temple on his bi-cycle, waving the ‘hands’ of Congress; or which way would Bua (maternal aunt) Mayawati’s elephant will take turn to paint the city blue? Right from the famous Assi ghat (river bank) to the Dashaswamedh ghat only the foreign tourists seemed to be enjoying Subhah-E-Benaras , the rest, irrespective of their caste, community and creed, were engaged in animated discussion on the upcoming results.

Few kilometers away at the Vishwanath temple inside the Benaras Hindu University and every nook and cranny of Godowlia chowk, the busiest and most well-known thoroughfare of this sacred city, the narrative had same tone and tenor: agog with different voices, diverse viewpoints, calculations and arithmetic.

“Every individual in Benares is has a Ph.D in politics…they’re political by birth… So instead of having their views on the poll outcome, you better wait for one more day otherwise they’ll confuse to convince you,” advised a sexagenarian Jai Narayan Pandey at the BHU campus but not without adding his own two cents worth of analysis: “All eyes are set on PM Modi…stakes are very high for him…if he wins UP, he will be through in Gujarat later this year or …. ”

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Printable version | May 11, 2022 8:43:58 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-2017/every-man-a-pundit-in-political-varanasi/article61806752.ece