A local saying in Kashi is that no one is “chela” (disciple), everyone is a “guru” (the teacher or boss). It is not uncommon to hear people greet each other with a “ka guru” or “ka raja”, which roughly translates to “hello boss”, “hello king”.
On Thursday, the city accorded a royal welcome to Narendra Modi and hailed him as a “political guru” for singlehandedly fighting a sustained campaign against his opponents.
Sachindra Nath Shukla, a local businessman who had decked up his 1943 black Willys Jeep in the hope that Modi would travel in it, voiced the prevalent mood: “For us, there cannot be a bigger show of political punditry than the one given by Modi. He is a political guru.”
The refrain in Varanasi was that while road-shows of other parties comprised supporters, Modi had voters surrounding him.
The acknowledgement of his rising political graph came from Muslims too. “It is true that Modi’s profile is bigger than ever as he has survived sustained political attacks. Now slowly, even the minorities here realise that Modi would help better their lot, in much the same way as he has done for Muslims in Gujarat,” said Haji Khalid Amin, a resident.
Modi had said he was coming to Varanasi not to defeat anyone but to win over the Muslims. His road-show was attended by some members of the minority community. Others were seen greeting him from outside a mosque.
Clearly, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s protest at Assi ghat against what he called a “forced closure of the city” due to coming of the “raja”, failed to make a dent.
Modi’s five-hour stay was high on symbolism. It began with the garlanding of statues of BHU founder Madan Mohan Malaviya, Sardar Ballabh Bhai Patel and Swami Vivekananda to showcase his emphasis on education, good governance and aspirational leadership.
“The caste of these great men also suited the saffron strategists. Malaviya, whose grandson was one of the proposers for Modi, was a Brahmin. Sardar Patel belonged to the kurmis, an influential votebank not just in Varanasi but in the entire east UP,” said Professor Kaushal Mishra, head of political science department, BHU.
The Maldahiya crossing, where Sardar Patel’s statue is located, suited the saffron brigade for another reason.
The area houses a dalit village, whose residents allowed everyone wishing for a better look at Modi climb their house tops. “Everybody wants to see him. We don’t want to play spoilsport,” said Pappu Prasad Bharti, a sanitary worker whose corner house was in great demand.