“What Congress did in 60 years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be able to do in 160 years,” 65-year-old Ali Hussain told his friends. Sitting at a tea stall in the weavers-dominated Lallapura area, the group was discussing the Congress late on Monday, the eve of party president Sonia Gandhi’s road show in Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency.
Accusing the Modi government of not fulfilling its promises, Hussain threw his weight behind the grand old party, saying it knew how to run a country.
“Congress carried out development across the nation during its 60 years rule. Because of policies of the Congress, pucca houses replaced the mud ones. Congress worked for every section — farmers, weavers, daily wagers of the society,” he said. Skip to present, he alleged that weavers have been suffering for the last two years due to the NDA.
“The market is sluggish because of poor policies of Modi government. Inflation is rising. Arhar daal prices are very high. It is selling at the rate of Rs 150 or more per kg. Modi badly failed in checking inflation and carrying out development.”
But Hussain’s view is far from universal, even among his fellow weavers: many others are optimistic about upliftment under the Modi rule.
Narendra Nath Chaurasia, also a weaver, said it took at least 20 years for results to show. In his early sixties, Chaurasia has seen much of the political landscape, and wagers that the BJP still stands a good chance in the state, or the ruling Samajwadi Party.
“PM is working hard. By travelling abroad, he has strengthened India’s position in eyes of global investors considerably. His trips will bring in investment which will generate employment opportunities and development in the coming days,” Chaurasia said.
For the weaver community, many of who are Muslims --- not known as a traditional vote bank of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), times have been hard. Work opportunities have been dipping over the years as they struggle to compete with powerlooms mass-producing their craft in a shorter time frame, and for a lesser price. Hussain argues that these factors, coupled by what he perceives as poor government policies, have made matters worse for their community.
Adding that nothing has moved forward in two years in spite tall of Modi’s claims of development in Varanasi, Hussain said, “Eventually, we will have to return to the Congress.”
Hussain is not alone in his conviction; his friends Hazi Israr Ahmad and Ishtiyaq Ahmad, both weavers, say a Congress rule can bring fortune to the community.
For them, and others like them, Sonia Gandhi’s Dard-e-Banaras road show on Tuesday will resonate, for party chief intends to pick on what Modi’s hasn’t achieved.
At another tea stall, Jamalu and Kashi Nath Bharti criticised the BJP and the Centre for depressive trends in the handloom sector in Varanasi.
“Three years ago, I used to get proper work. Situation is entirely different presently. It is tough to get few hours job since handloom owners has reduced production because exporters are not ready to take the products,” Bharati said.