Months after a landslide victory in the politically most crucial state Assembly election of Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently decided to spend two days in his new political turf in the state, Varanasi, from where he retained his parliamentary seat, choosing it over his Vadodara seat in Gujarat.
While his party faces the biggest challenge in the upcoming Assembly election in his home state Gujarat after losing its monopoly in the Panchayat elections, Modi began consolidating his party’s roots in Varanasi by announcing mega-budget projects worth ten billion rupees ahead of the 2019 General Elections.
However, according to Gopal Mishra, a Delhi-based senior journalist and political analyst, though PM Modi is working hard to build up his campaign on the dual planks of development and good governance, the arrogance of BJP minions and their attitude has disheartened the people at large.
“Modi, in spite of his tremendous efforts, is losing ground because his BJP-ruled state leaders are messing up his plans. The media has not covered poor performance of the BJP in the Gujarat civic polls. This is the same mistake Indira Gandhi regime had made during the Emergency period,” he said, weighing it as a similar situation.
The Prime Minister made a two-day visit to his constituency Varanasi from September 22 to 23. It was then that he inaugurated nineteen development projects estimated to cost 1,000 crore. The most important initiative was the inauguration of a trade facility centre. Modi also laid the foundation stone of 10 more development projects and inaugurated seventeen infrastructure projects that include Ramnagar-Samne Ghat Bridge and the Balua Ghat Bridge. On the last day of his visit, the PM inaugurated the first “Pashu Arogya Mela” or cattle health fair.
Giving a new push to rail connectivity, PM Modi flagged-off the third Mahamana Express train through a video link. The train will run between Modi’s political battlefields — Varanasi in UP and Vadodara in Gujarat. The train is a part of the Make in India initiative, with its interiors built under the programme.
Modi is known to deliver power-packed speeches during all his state visits. Varanasi was no exception. He addressed two public meetings, the first one after inaugurating the trading facility centre in Bada Lalpur, and the second one in
Shahanshapur. He reiterated that his government has taken on the mission of providing housing to every poor person, irrespective of rural or urban background, by 2022. The PM stressed that his government works only for development, not for votes.
He further said that the Opposition indulges in vote bank politics. “Some politicians work only when it fetches votes to them. But we have been brought up in a different culture. For us, the nation is above all and it is our top-most priority, not the votes,” he reiterated. Stressing that his government’s prime agenda is development, he said, “Governance is not about politics or winning elections.”
“When crores of houses are built across the country, bricks, cement, iron, and wood will be required. This will generate job opportunity for thousands, and open up new avenues of income and employment,” Modi emphasised in his address.
Distributing certificates to some of the selected beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, he said: “If Modi will not take up such a difficult challenge, who else will?…. Crores of families are still homeless, but when the country celebrates platinum jubilee of our Independence in 2022, every poor person, whether he lives in urban or rural area, will have his own home.”
The fact that the PM emphasises on a lot of development till the 2022 deadline implies that he is ambitious and focused on winning the next General Elections. It is also a good psychological strategy to make the masses vote him to power once again to allow the process of development to continue.
Referring to his efforts of eliminating corruption, Modi said his government had “waged a war” against black money and graft, as the poor have had to suffer because of “the loot” by the dishonest. “A common honest man suffers when a corrupt loots him. The campaign for honesty is now moving forward like a festival. The way in which our trader brothers are associating with GST and Aadhaar, every penny of the people will be spent for their welfare. We are moving forward fast,” he said.
Lashing out at the previous Samajwadi Party government in UP, Modi stated that the previous government had no interest in giving homes to the poor. “After facing mounting pressure, they gave a list of only 10,000 poor people. But the new government led by Yogi Adityanath has furnished a list which shows that lakhs of eligible poor people are yet to avail any benefits,” he said.
Professor KK Mishra of BHU said, “Modi is doing practical politics. His first visit to Varanasi after UP Assembly elections indicates that the BJP has begun acting on plans much ahead of the 2019 elections. By inaugurating 19 projects, the PM wants to reassure people that he is delivering on his promises.” Mishra assesses that the BJP would contest the 2019 election on the issues of development and good governance.
The Prime Minister’s visit to Varanasi was also significant as he met various functionaries from his party, important leaders from the RSS and others to take stock of the grassroots-level feedback about his governance for chalking out an electoral strategy. Modi praised the initiatives of the present BJP government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in his public addresses. Yogi’s governance has been severely criticised by the Opposition in view of incidents like Saharanpur caste violence, mob lynchings and deaths of several infants at the BRD Medical College in his constituency Gorakhpur. Earlier, the PM had publicly denounced such unfortunate incidents and said that rowdy elements were responsible for blotting his governance.
To give a thrust to rural banking services, he also inaugurated during his visit the Utkarsh Bank that specialises in micro-finance. The visit of the Prime Minister to the two Lok Sabha constituencies of Gorakhpur and Phulpur has raised eyeballs, as it was planned much in advance of the 2019 polls. The seats were vacated by Chief Minister Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Maurya. It is certain that the polls will test the party in these two constituencies on account of its performance in the state. Voices of dissent within his own party are slowly emerging in public domain indicating all is not well within the party. Uttar Pradesh is a key state for the BJP to reinstate its power at the Centre in the next General Election.