Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s road show, kickstarting the party’s 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll campaign from here, may have attracted a huge crowd on Tuesday despite Varanasi being Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency, but local response to the rally has been subdued.
Some residents The Sunday Guardian spoke to said that the rally was just a “show” by the Congress here and nothing could dent the BJP’s prospects in “Kashi”. Banarasi Lal, an auto driver and a Varanasi local, said that Sonia Gandhi’s visit would have no impact on the ground. Lal said that the huge crowd was nothing but people from all over who just wanted to have a glimpse of her. “The BJP is doing a wonderful job here, and the road show is not going to have any impact on the ground as far as votes are concerned. This place is a BJP bastion and again they will be the winners. The Prime Minister has made India visible on the world map. He will win again,” he said.
However, some say that the work being done is slow paced. Shakeel Ahmed Ansari, a resident and shopkeeper in a prominent hotel here, said, “There will definitely be an impact of her (Sonia Gandhi) visit here. Such a large crowd cannot be managed by somebody and they had all come on their own. No work has happpened here, the roads and drains are in bad shape. Even when MLAs and MPs of the BJP have been elected here since 1991, they have not done anything for Varanasi. No substantial work has happened here, except for some work on the ghats. The Congress is getting ready like never before.”
Allegations were made by some others that a section of the large crowd had come from outside Varanasi.
However, Rajesh Mishra, a senior local leader and vice president of UP Congress, told The Sunday Guardian, “Sonia Gandhi’s road show was very successful and the roads were filled with people and you could not count them. This road show also proves that the people of Banaras has given up on the false promises of Modiji, who is the Prime Minister and an MP from this constituency, and it seems that the people have made up their mind that they will vote for Congress.”
Mishra alleged that Sonia Gandhi fell ill during her road show because of the lack of cleanliness in the city.
Senior leaders of the BJP in Varanasi said that people have stopped believing in the Congress and Sonia Gandhi, who could not do anything in Rae Bareli, would not be able to deliver here too.
Hansraj Viswakarma, president of the Varanasi Zilla BJP, said, “Soniaji’s rally has nothing to do with BJP being afraid. She had just come here to breathe life into the Congress in Varanasi, which has become almost redundant. We are completely ready for election and even if the election is held tomorrow, we will win all the five seats from here.”