Is it going to be the mother of all battles in in the temple town, Kashi, this Lok Sabha election? Is Congress Party using its “trump card” Priyanaka Gandhi Vadra to fight Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Varanasi parliamentary constituency? The buzz just got stronger on Saturday.
Priyanka Gandi Vadra is reportedly eager to contest against BJP’s tallest leader but the Congress Party continues to be tight-lipped over her candidacy. The party is said to be under pressure from Opposition leaders such as Chandra Babu Naidu (TDP) and Sitaram Yechury (CPIM) to field her against Narendra Modi.
How would it play out in the most prestigious Varanasi constituency if Priyanaka, the latest inductee into the Congress Party, does really take the plunge into the poll battle?
It would certainly add to the frenzy, mostly generated by the media, as seen during her boat ride (Ganga Yatra) from Prayagraj to Varanasi in March. Media frenzy may grow higher by several notches than what was seen in the Yatra, with the possibility of more scribes from foreign media agencies camping in the constituency. But what are the chances of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra eating into the vote share of Narendra Modi.
According to a latest survey that tracked the mood swing of voters in Uttar Pradesh post her Ganga Yatra, though she succeeded in changing 25% Muslims in favour of her party, she failed to woo upper caste voters on her side contrary to expectation. In Varanasi itself, where her 3-day Yatra concluded, the gathering she attracted was anything but spectacular.
Will it change once she enters the poll fray? Is there anything to suggest so? Is there some caste arithmetic to help her in case of a combined opposition pitching against Modi?
Traditionally upper caste and section of OBC voters vote for the BJP. In Varanasi constituency, Muslims constitute a largest chunk of voters with 3 lakh voters. At the same time there is dominance of upper castes – Brahmins 2.5 lakh, Bhumihars 1.5 lakh, Vaish 2 lakh, and Kayasthas 65,000. Besides Kurmis and Patels (OBC) form a sizeable chunk of 1.5 voters.
In 2014 general election, Narendra Modi secured 56.37% of the total votes polled and won the seat by a margin of over 3.71 lakh votes. Congress’s Ajay Rai, who belongs to upper caste Bhumihar, polled only about 75,000 votes.
Priyanka Gandhi’s candidature may improve the vote tally of the Congress, but expecting her to give a tough fight to Narendra Modi is a bit too much to hope as yet.
Then why all these buzz about pitting her against Modi? Could the target be something other than winning the seat?