Varanasi’s southern communities in focus as Modi campaign aims at record win margin | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Varanasi’s southern communities in focus as Modi campaign aims at record win margin

By | Edited by Anish Yande
May 22, 2024 08:00 AM IST

The multi-ethnic population, the 200-odd ashrams and old-age homes that house tens of thousands of voters in the temple town are on the BJP’s wish list.

A 50-member cross-country team of senior leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is working to ensure the party’s Varanasi Lok Sabha candidate - Prime Minister Narendra Modi – not only polls a record number of votes but also wins by a record margin, BJP leaders present at the party meeting in the temple town on Sunday told HT.

 Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Nari Shakti Sammelan in Varanasi, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (PTI Photo) (PTI05_21_2024_000317B)(PTI) PREMIUM
Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Nari Shakti Sammelan in Varanasi, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (PTI Photo) (PTI05_21_2024_000317B)(PTI)

A key canvassing point for the group is the burgeoning south Indian community who live, work and study in Varanasi.

A core team, consisting of general secretaries of various states, members of parliament, and other office bearers, has been constituted to help Modi poll 10 lakh votes. The multi-ethnic population, the 200-odd ashrams and old-age homes that house tens of thousands of voters in the temple town are on the BJP’s wish list.

Sunil Bansal, national general secretary chaired the meeting in Varanasi on Sunday, May 19, that ran into hours as operational details of the detailed voter outreach programme were planned. Tasks were delegated to leaders who would have to work as foot soldiers to deliver the ambitious target.

“Our brief is to ensure we provide a record win for PM Modi netting more than 80% of the votes polled in the constituency. Each of us has been given a set of local leaders to work with for the last leg of the campaign to secure a high voter turnout by sanitising the voter list so that there are no discrepancies,” said S Vishnu Vardhan Reddy, BJP general secretary from Andhra Pradesh who was present at the meeting in Varanasi.

BJP’s focus on the southern community

A coveted electoral bloc in Kashi is the growing south Indian fraternity. Telugu and Tamils, who have a historic connection with the holy city account for two lakh voters while the Kannada and Malayalam-speaking population takes the number of southerners a notch higher by 50,000.

“Our work has been divided based on the number of people from each state. The mapping of the voters to the polling booth and the origin of the voters has already been done in the last two years. We have now been tasked with addressing groups of voters in small meetings,” said NVSS Prabhakar who has been nominated from Telangana along with Dhanpal Suryanarayana, sitting member of the legislative assembly (MLA) from Nizamabad, and Bandi Sanjay, former BJP Telangana President.

P Sudhakar Reddy, a current member of the legislative council (MLC), is Andhra’s additional representative.

General secretaries from Tamil Nadu and senior functionaries from Kerala have been tasked with addressing linguistic minorities in Kashi. PK Krishnadas and Kummanam Rajasekharan from Kerala are on the roster for campaigns in Delhi and Varanasi, party leaders who asked not to be named said.

Gayathri Devi, one of BJP’s Tamil Nadu secretaries, R Rajalakshmi, and CT Palanichamy who joined the BJP from AIADMK, Nainar Nagendran, BJP’s LS candidate from Tirunelveli, K Gopalaswamy, and five others participated in the meeting from Tamil Nadu.

“A 10-member continent from Tamil Nadu is in Varanasi currently. Five of us have been here for the last week to engage with voters and speak of PM Modi’s work on the Kashi-Tamil Sangamam, and other cultural issues, including installing the Sengol in the new parliament building,” Devi said.

Two MLAs from Karnataka have been tasked with speaking to the ‘Kannada Koota’, or Kannada groups, in the temple town. From the famous ‘ghats’ of the town to the Benares Hindu University, Tamil and Telugu voters are being canvassed.

According to the BHU student union, about 5% university students are from Tamil Nadu and about 6.4% are from the two Telugu-speaking states, reflecting the growing political prowess of the south-Indian community.

In addition to the southern bloc, party spokespersons and sitting MLAs from Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal were also present at the meeting, the leaders, quoted earlier, said.

Sudhir Singh, a BJP block panchayat leader, told HT that his main job is to organise meetings for the leaders coming in from different states. Singh was with the Samajwadi Party (SP) earlier and switched to the BJP after the 2019 election. “I am from Chiraigaon in Varanasi but I am familiar with the entire functioning of the South Varanasi assembly segment. In every booth, we have been told to increase the number of votes by 370, the target set by the BJP in the parliament. For this, all the non-Hindi speakers should come out and cast their vote,” he said.

While Varanasi district president Hansraj Vishwakarma has been tasked with day-to-day supervision of the regional meetings, five BJP leaders — Ashwini Tyagi, Arun Pathak, Jagdish Patel, Satish Dwivedi, and Surendra Nayaran Singh — will report to Sunil Bansal on the overall preparedness of the party for the election on June 01.

A BJP leader who HT spoke to said: “Our local teams have met prospective voters twice already - once before the nomination, and once after. Each of us has been tasked with meeting at least 50 voters per day in addition to the small gatherings we are holding.”

The personalised meetings come a week after Modi’s nomination in Varanasi that was attended by National Democratic Alliance (NDA) alliance partners from all states as a show of strength and party unity.

Modi garnered 63.62% of the votes in 2019, with 6,74,664 people casting their votes in his favour. The runners-up were Shalini Yadav from SP and Ajay Rai, the Congress Uttar Pradesh President who got 18.40% and 14.48% of the votes respectively. Modi won by a margin of more than 4.7 lakh votes.

In 2014, Modi’s vote percentage was 56.37% and Arvind Kejriwal, current chief minister of Delhi was his opponent who garnered 20.30% or 2.09 lakh votes.

“Yes, we are looking at an improbable victory. But I do not think it is impossible,” said Chandran from BJP Tamil Nadu who is coordinating the meetings of all the leaders in Varanasi.

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