Sunday, May 11, 2014

Varanasi votes (Brahmins vs. Sunnis)

May 12, 2014. It will be a hand to hand combat between Narendra Modi (backed by majority of caste Hindu votes) and Arvind Kejriwal (backed by majority of sunni Muslim votes). The good news is that apart from some dedicated Yadav and Dalit voters, few votes will be "wasted." People understand the stakes at hand and will not be distracted by propaganda (on all sides).

This is a caste Hindu dominated city (17 lakh voters), the contest will be between the (3 Lakh) Brahmins and in opposition, an almost equal number of Sunni Muslims (Shia muslims are expected to vote for the BJP). The Bhumihars (third largest community, also Brahmins but with a difference*) are critical as their vote swings towards the BJP. The Congress, even with a Bhumihar candidate and desperate pleading from conservative muslim leaders is all set to score a (distant) bronze medal. The local UP big-guns - Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) - will fare miserably. 

The Election Commission backed by Uttar Pradesh police ordered a massive raid on BJP head-quarters on suspicion of campaign related irregularities. This has resulted in (predictably) virulent demonstrations. 
If a game is being played it is way too complex for a common citizen to comprehend.

Brief note on a Bhumihar Brahmin* icon [ref. Wiki] Sri Krishna Sinha, born into a Bhumihar Brahmin family is considered the architect of modern Bihar. Barring the war years, Sinha was Chief Minister of Bihar from the time of the first Congress Ministry in 1937 until his death in 1961. He led Dalit’s entry into the Baidyanath Dham temple (Vaidyanath Temple, Deoghar), reflecting his commitment to the upliftment and social empowerment of dalits. He was the first Chief Minister in the country to abolish the zamindari system.
................With nearly 17 lakh voters as per figures of the local administration, Varanasi has a dominant Hindu population. According to an official in the district magistrate's office, of these, there are nearly three lakh Muslims, and nearly an equal number of three lakh brahmans.

The brahmans vote is traditionally expected to go to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) appears to have made a dent.

Bhumihars, the community of Congress's Ajay Rai, are nearly 1.5 lakh in number.
However, their votes appear to be divided, after local Muslim leader Mukhtar Ansari extended support to Rai.

Similarly, the Muslim votes appear split as well, with many deciding not to follow Ansari's call to support Congress, and choosing the AAP instead.
Kamal Ahmed Ansari, a weaver, said he was supporting the AAP. "Many local weavers are supporting the AAP. They have a feeling he has better chances of winning," said Ansari.
Asked about Mukhtar Ansari's support to Rai, he said: "I was a supporter of the Quami Ekta Dal (Mukhtar Ansari's party), but now that he is supporting Rai, his 'enemy', we don't want to support him."

Mukhtar Ansari is in jail on charges of ordering the killing of BJP legislator Krishnanand Rai, who was the brother of Ajay Rai.
In 2009, both Krishnanand Rai and Mukhtar Ansari had contested the polls from Varanasi, but BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi emerged victorious.

Meanwhile, the Congress is making last-minute efforts involving local religious leaders.
"The local elders are asking people to vote for the Congress. Let us see what people decide," said Shakeel, a shop keeper in Beniyabagh locality.

"There are many supporters of the Samajwadi Party and Congress as well, but people feel the battle is between BJP and AAP, and they don't want to waste their votes," said Amit Singh, who owns a book store in Godowlia area.

Koushal Kishor Mishra, a professor of political science at the premier Banaras Hindu University, said religion was a way of life in Varanasi and politics cannot be kept apart from it.
"Religion is the centre and a way of life here, when everything is centred around religion, how can politics be away from it," he wondered.

Other major castes here include the Chaurasiyas, the traditional pan traders who are nearly 1.3 lakh in number, Mallahs, the boatmen, who number around 50,000, the Yadavs, the caste of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh, who number around one lakh, and one lakh Dalits.

"The bhumihar votes have split, and nearly 30 per cent may go to the BJP. They are also getting the Chaurasiya votes,"said Mishra.

. Amid high drama on eve of polls, UP police and Election Commission officials today raided BJP office here and seized campaign material, drawing vociferous protest from the party, but within hours "closed" the case.

The search was conducted by the flying squad of police personnel and EC authorities amid a ban on all election campaign activities since last evening for tomorrow's polls in the city that has witnessed a highly charged electioneering.

BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is pitted against AAP's Arvind Kejriwal and Congress' Ajay Rai among others.

The raid at the main BJP office of Kashi region prompted a major protest and sloganeering by the party supporters.

District Magistrate Pranjal Yadav and Special Election Observer Pravin Kumar later told reporters that the Election Commission has decided to close the case as the material was not being used for campaigning.

These items were not being distributed among prospective voters, the officials said. When asked whether such action would be taken against other parties also, Yadav said that the raid was conducted as per information received by a flying squad and action would be taken on all such information. 

BJP leaders, however, said that these were unused campaign materials and the party was not indulging into any campaign activities.
They claimed that the latest incident further proves the administration and election authorities' partisan approach against BJP and linked it to the local administration's denial of permission to Modi's rally here on May 8.

In Delhi, an Election Commission order about today's incident said, "On receipt of a complaint, a flying squad checked the vehicle at the office of the BJP in Varanasi.
"After obtaining a report from special observer and after finding that no irregularity has taken place, the Commission has directed the release of the material and drop further action."


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