NEW DELHI: The task is cut out for allies of both the BJP-led coalition and the one headed by the Samajwadi Party to mobilise core voters in Varanasi, where the poll battle is being seen as a test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity in his constituency.
The might of Apna Dal (Sonelal) led by union minister Anupriya Patel and Nishad parties would be on test in Varanasi in particular to see that the BJP retains power in all the assembly segments here like the last time.
Similarly, the utility of the Apna Dal (Kamerwadi) led by Anupriya’s mother Krishna Patel and the Akhilesh Yadav led alliance will be proved especially in Varanasi.
Sources in various parties suggest that two lakh votes of the Patel community, locally known as OBC kurmi, for which mother-daughter led Apna Dal (S) and Apna Dal (K) are competing and over one lakh of OBC Rajbhars would be crucial in deciding the outcome of the assembly seats in Varanasi.
While Modi is all set to lead the poll blitzkrieg in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi for two days on March 4 and 5, opposition allies are working overtime to tilt the result in their favour.
BJP sources here said the prime minister will hold a roadshow in different localities of Varanasi starting 2 pm on Friday and will address a rally in Khajuri village of the district the next day.
The roadshow will be held for three assembly constituencies of Cantt, Varanasi North and Varanasi South. Modi is also scheduled to visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
In Rohania assembly seat of Varanasi, the two Apna Dals are taking on each other directly.
The Anupriya Patel headed party has fielded Sunil in the seat to take on Abhay Patel of her mother led outfit. Apna Dal (K) is also in poll fray from Pindara constituency to take on BJP’s Awdhesh Singh and Congress’ Ajay Rai.
Similarly former minister and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) leader Om Prakash Rajbhar has been allotted Ajgora and Shivpur seats to take on saffron party nominees.
In Shivpur, Om Prakash Rajbhar’s son Arvind Rajbhar is the joint opposition candidate against minister Anil Rajbhar.
Union Minister of State for Industry and Commerce Anupriya Patel told PTI, “We have shown our mettle in 2014 and also in the last general elections in 2019”.
On the claims made by the party headed by her mother that they have made inroads in Patel caste votes, she said, “Not once but three times it has been proved that who has the support of people…is there anything left to prove?”
However, her elder sister Pallavi Patel, who has challenged deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya from Sirathu in Kaushambi, said, the situation is different this time as people have made up their mind to dislodge Yogi Adityanath.
She also claimed that the Apna Dal (K,) will perform stupendously.
After the split, Pallavi Patel is in the outfit led by her mother.
Om Prakash Rajbhar, whose party had won one seat in Varanasi as the BJP partner in 2017 but is part of the Akhilesh Yadav headed grouping, told PTI that “the result will be 6-2 in favour of opposition coalition in Varanasi”.
Prominent leaders of opposition parties have made a trip to the city considering its importance for winning a perception war before the next Lok Sabha election.
Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee held a joint rally with SP president Akhilesh Yadav and his RLD ally Jayant Chaudhary on Thursday.
After humbling the BJP in her home state West Bengal, Banerjee is trying to lead a formidable grouping of the anti-BJP forces in the next national election.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and BSP supremo Mayawati have already marked their attendance in Varanasi and neighbouring areas.
Locked in a fierce poll battle with the Samajwadi Party in particular, winning a majority of seats out of the 54 constituencies in the end round, is a must for the BJP to continue its sway in the 2024 general election.
In 2017, out of the eight assembly seats in Varanasi, the BJP had won six while its partner Apna Dal (S) had bagged one and another one had gone to Rajbhar’s SBSP which was with the BJP then one.
Varanasi has over 3.25 lakh Vaisyas, three lakh Muslims, Brahmins (2.5 lakh), Patels (two lakh), Yadavs (1.5 lakh), Thakurs (one lakh), Dalits 80,000 and other OBC castes 70,000.
The 54 seats going to polls on March 7 are in Azamgarh, Mau, Jaunpur, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Bhadohi and Sonbhadra.
Source: Press Trust of India