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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Dec 2014

We're better off without Modi, say Muslims in Varanasi

Pawan Dixit, Hindustan Times  Varanasi, March 23, 2014
First Published: 22:42 IST(23/3/2014) | Last Updated: 08:51 IST(24/3/2014)

Members of the Muslim community are watching the political developments in Varanasi keenly.

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If discussions at tea stalls in Muslim-dominated areas are to be believed, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) prime minister nominee, Narendra Modi, might not get the votes of the minority community.

Varanasi or Kashi, one of the oldest existing cities in the world and an important place of pilgrimage for the Hindus, has 300,000-odd Muslim voters.

With Gujarat chief minister Modi in the fray, Muslims are waiting for the Congress to announce its pick and Quami Ekta Dal to declare Mukhtar Ansari's candidature from the holy city.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal has also indicated that he might contest against Modi from Varanasi. 

Despite the opposition to Modi, no one is willing to say anything on record in Muslim-dominated Dalmandi, known for a big market of pirated DVDs and electronic goods.

A 27-year-old mobile trader claimed on condition of anonymity that Modi was not the favourite among Muslims.

"How could anyone expect a Muslim to vote for Modi after the Gujarat riots (of 2002)? Muslims of Kashi are at the crossroads.

"There is no formidable candidate against Modi till date on whom Muslims could rely on."

He said the first preference of the Muslims would be Ansari, followed by the Congress candidate.

"If Mukhtar Ansari contests from Varanasi, Muslims will not give a second thought. In Mukhtar's absence, we will vote for the Congress candidate." 

According to him, Kejriwal is the last option. He, however, added, "If Kejriwal manages to throw a serious challenge to Modi in Mukhtar's absence, Muslims could also vote for him."

He also said the BJP's attempt to showcase development in Gujarat had not impressed the Muslims.

At Beniya Bagh, another Muslim-dominated area, anxiety over Modi's candidature could easily be felt.

"All formal statements (by Muslims) on Modi are sugar- coated. At this point, no one wants to attract attention by making a controversial statement," said one Abdul Ansari at a tea stall.

"If any Muslim is praising Modi, it is just to avoid controversy. No Muslim will ever vote for Modi. If any Muslim is claiming to be a Modi supporter, he is lying," he added.

The scene is no different at tea stalls in Pili Kothi, which houses a sizable number of weavers.  Narrow alleys flanked by powerloom and handloom units are the hallmark of area.

Even weavers struggling to make ends meet do not want Modi.

"Development or no development, we are better off without Modi," said Rahmatullah, a 65-year-old weaver.


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