One of the world’s oldest temple cities has suddenly become a political hotbed, with top BJP leaders, PM nominee Narendra Modi and sitting MP Murli Manohar Joshi, staking claim to the Varanasi seat.
Also, BJP national president Rajnath Singh is most likely to have his wish — getting shifted from Ghaziabad to Lucknow — fulfiled. But the sitting Lucknow MP, veteran Lalji Tandon, may be unwilling to vacate it for him.
Meanwhile, the battle for Varanasi has become crucial — even before the polls — as Joshi will have to move to Kanpur if Modi is allowed to take over Varanasi.
The party’s argument: Joshi can win easily from Kanpur, which has 17% Brahmin votes.
As a section of BJP workers in Varanasi began a signature campaign to support the 80-year-old former BJP chief, interlocutors were said to have been sent to persuade him to consider Kanpur.
Modi, who considers Joshi to be his mentor, is, however, still undecided whether he should displace him though he is under pressure from the state BJP leaders to contest from Varanasi.
Joshi was elected to the Lok Sabha thrice from 1996 from Allahabad, but was defeated from there in 2004.
He won from Varanasi in 2009, defeating Mukhtar Ansari of the Bahujan Samaj Party by a margin of about 18,000 votes.
“There is a deliberate attempt by some sections of the party to create an anti-Joshi atmosphere in Varanasi in order to convince senior RSS leaders about an anti-Joshi wave in the city,” said a senior BJP leader not willing to be named. Spreading of rumours was a part of this campaign, he added.
In close party circles, the Joshi camp has even accused Singh of being behind the anti-Joshi propaganda in Varanasi. A senior member of the Joshi camp said, “Now, they are resorting to all possible tricks to portray Joshi’s negative image. Such people have the backing of national president Rajnath Singh.”
Recently, Joshi released a booklet listing the development works carried out by him in Varanasi from his local area development fund.
The book gave a detailed account of Rs. 19 crore he spent on various projects. The Modi camp took pot shots at Joshi’s claims.