Congress targets smaller communities in Modi's Varanasi

Last Updated 01 May 2019, 12:04 IST

Seeking to give a tough fight to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi, the Congress has set its eyes on smaller communities, who it believes are upset with the BJP government's thrust on development of the temple town.

The Congress managers active in the Prime Minister's parliamentary constituency have been reaching out to the fishermen and the boatmen community, which had voted overwhelmingly for the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

"Most of the boatmen and fishermen in the region are unhappy with the introduction of battery-operated boats in River Ganga under the pretext of preventing pollution spread by diesel-run vessels," a Congress functionary said.

Also, the state government's move to operate a cruise boat in the Ganga at Varanasi also drew the ire of the boatmen, who went on a strike in December, forcing tourists to skip the boat-ride in the holy city.

It is estimated that people from Nishad, Bind, Mallah and Kewat communities constitute around 4% of the Uttar Pradesh electorate.

Also upset at the government's development plans for Varanasi are the street vendors, and Congress workers are engaging with them actively.

As AICC general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is expected to place a special focus on Varanasi and Gorakhpur, the strongholds of Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, respectively.

Priyanka and AICC general secretary in-charge of western Uttar Pradesh Jyotiraditya Scindia held a marathon meeting with party leaders from the state on Thursday evening to assess the ground situation in the state and issued broad guidelines on the selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections.

Earlier this week, Congress president Rahul Gandhi appointed six AICC secretaries — three each attached to Priyanka and Scindia to assist them in battleground Uttar Pradesh.

Though the immediate task before them is the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul has asked both Priyanka and Scindia to focus on making the Congress a force to reckon with in the Assembly elections scheduled for 2022.

(Published 22 February 2019, 16:24 IST)

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