Sacred city chants development mantra

UP Assembly polls 2017: Modi's initiatives overshadow Akhilesh

Sacred city chants development mantra

For ages, people of this holy city were perhaps too content to think beyond fate and expect enrichment of their worldly lives. But a narrative of development is now competing here with ‘aastha’ (faith) to blunt caste politics that is driving the UP Assembly polls.

With a week to go for polling here and in adjoining six districts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development initiatives are being talked about more than those by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Though Yadav has managed to carve an identity as vikas purush, he is no development icon at least in this ancient city. Since becoming the prime minister, Modi brought schemes that created a perception of all-round development of his Lok Sabha constituency.

Apart from adopting Jayapur to make it a model village, he announced schemes for cleaning ghats, underground electricity cables, a sewage treatment plant to stop waste flowing into Ganga, providing tap water and a Metro mass transport system.

B V Ravi Kumar, a tourist guide who left his ancestral town of Visakhapatnam to settle here, says Akhilesh Yadav has concentrated more on developing his native place Saifai and Mainpuri than Varanasi.

“Whether you like it or not it is Modi ji who is making efforts to convert Varanasi into a modern and developed city. What has Akhilesh done?” asks Ravi Kumar over a cup of tea at a street stall in Gadowlia on Thursday afternoon.

Samajwadi Party’s mobile audio-visual campaign vans are merely talking about distribution of laptops, and they are stationed in minority-dominated areas, he insists.

That feeling is voiced during several other interactions with Banarasis. Saurabh Agrahari, a young cellphone shop owner in Basphatak, agrees with the analysis that Modi is edging out Akhilesh on development.

“Everyone knows. You too must be knowing… SP government gave priority to minority upliftment programmes and has done little for Lord Shiva’s nagri (town),” Saurabh says.

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