Even as he faces the BJP's wrath for putting curbs on its leader Narendra Modi's election campaign, Pranjal Yadav, the young IIT-educated district magistrate of Varanasi, remains a local hero.
BJP supporters hold posters of the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav, center front, and the District Magistrate of Varanasi Pranjal Yadav during a protest against the UP state government in Varanasi. (AP Photo)
A mechanical engineer from IIT-Roorkee, the 34-year-old official is a 2006 batch IAS officer. He had been the district magistrate of Azamgarh, the constituency of Mulayam Singh Yadav, before coming to Varanasi.
On the streets of Varanasi, public support for Yadav is strong even as the Bharatiya Janata Party has accused him of attempting to derail Modi's Lok Sabha campaign in Varanasi where he is the BJP candidate. People IANS spoke to here were mostly supportive of the district magistrate for more reasons than one. Surprisingly even some BJP activists had nice things to say about Yadav.
The BJP went on a warpath after the Election Commission, acting on Yadav's advice, disallowed one election rally by Modi in the city citing security reasons. A miffed Modi did address another rally Thursday but axed two of his other events including a Ganga aarti.
The locals are all praise for the district magistrate. One resident described him as "a man of action".
"He handled encroachment with an iron fist. He did not even spare politicians and other biggies," Sunil Chaurasiya, who owns a cyber cafe in the Godowlia area, told IANS.
He credited Varanasi's better quality roads to Yadav.
"The roads are like never before. Earlier, there were areas where people didn't want to go because of poor roads. Yadav brought about the change," Chaurasiya said.
Naushad, an auto driver, echoed the sentiment.
"Life is easier for people like us because of the better roads. It saves us fuel. Yadav has done a lot for Banaras," he said.
At Yadav's official residence, a bungalow with a sprawling lawn lined with trees in the cantonment area, an aide described the top official as a "nice person".
"He is a good man. His mission is to do good for people," the aide told IANS.
Yadav lives with his family including his wife and a young daughter.
The district magistrate could not be reached for comments. His aide said he was avoiding the media.
"Too much attention is being paid to his personal life. He does not like that," the aide said.
The BJP has alleged that the district magistrate is related to Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and is taking orders from that party. Ramgopal Yadav has denied any family links with the official.
"The district magistrate has undertaken the river profiling of the Ganga to protect its ghats from caving in," said Shrinivas, a student of Banaras Hindu University who did not give his second name.
IANS learnt that Yadav formed a committee in 2013 to assess the problems of the Ganga ghats -- with participation of other official agencies including the Central Water Commission, PWD, the irrigation department and civil engineering experts from IIT-BHU.
A BJP worker, Krishnendu, admitted that his party had in general received good support from the district administration for all its rallies."It would have been difficult to handle the crowds without the support of the administration," Krishnendu admitted IANS.