Poll tourism takes over city of religious tourists

Poll tourism takes over city of religious tourists

More than 50K political volunteers arrive in Varanasi

Ghats and galis of Benaras have always been familiar with hordes of locals and tourists, but presence of over 50,000 political volunteers – working for various parties – seems to have made this city the ‘poll capital’ of the country.

A large majority of these volunteers have come from outside Varanasi and, interestingly, candidates fielded by most major political parties for this Lok Sabha seat are also being termed ‘outsiders’, including BJP's Prime Ministerial nominee Narendra Modi and Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal.

Congress candidate Ajay Rai is a Varanasi local, but currently he’s an MLA from Pindra assembly constituency, which is nearby but outside this Lok Sabha seat. Samajwadi Party’s Kailash Chaurasiya is a sitting MLA from nearby Mirzapur assembly constituency.

Kejriwal, who served as chief minister of Delhi, is already being termed by his opponents a ‘deserter who has come from Delhi’, while there is also a talk about Modi possibly leaving the Varanasi seat, even if he wins from here, to retain Vadodara, the other seat from where he is contesting Lok Sabha polls.

Notwithstanding these apprehensions, all parties are leaving no stones unturned in their poll campaigns and the activities are expected to further heat up with the filing of Modi's nomination on April 24.

Rai and Chaurasiya have already filed their nominations, while Kejriwal is expected to do so on April 23.

BJP leaders said a final list is being drawn for public meetings of top party functionaries from across the city, while Rai has already appealed to Gandhi family members and other top party leaders to come for campaign.

SP leaders also expect party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to come here, while BSP is finalising plans for a visit by Mayawati.

AAP's Kejriwal came here last week and will stay till polling on May 12.

According to figures given by leaders of various parties, the cumulative number of party workers and volunteers working for different candidates at present exceeds 50,000 and this could soon touch the one-lakh mark.

That could mean an average of one volunteer for every 10 voters coming out to cast their votes. Varanasi is estimated to have nearly 16 lakh voters and a turnout of about 60 per cent would roughly mean 10 lakh people coming out to vote.