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BATTLEGROUND VARANASI

Sarai Mohana, Varanasi, experience

Modi tries to unite Indian polity in the Hindi heartland, his opponents work hard at dividing it. 

If there is any one who is playing the ‘National-Unity-Card’ in these elections, it’s Narendra Modi whereas his haters and baiters of various hues and cries are playing the ‘National-Disunity-Card’ in the hope to revive, widen, and reinforce the age-old caste, creed, and community fault-lines and fissures.  

This devious strategy is most apparent in Varanasi. And among various others known masterminds of this strategy like the Mafia don Mukhtar Ansari, a lot of clandestine undercover activities are going on across Uttar Pradesh with the sole objective of thwarting Modi. A number of American-funded NGOs and leftist outfits of dubious credentials have been activated by their handlers with a clear brief to hurt Modi as much as they can.

I had a first-hand experience of it in Sarai Mohana village of Varanasi.

During my flight to Varanasi from Mumbai I read an article in Navbharat Times by Bimal Mishr. Bimal was my class fellow. Both of us studied B.Com at BHU. His article mentioned about Kamal Swaroop, a national award-winning maverick filmmaker and an old acquaintance of mine. He was reportedly in Varanasi making a documentary on ‘Battleground Varanasi’. I did not have Kamal’s number, so I called up another friend Uday Shankar Pani, Kamal’s classmate in FTII, and got the number. I called up Kamal and he readily agreed to see me. It was only the next day I could get to see him. He was doing an interview at Sarai Mohana village with some human rights activist and since I had nothing much to do, I decided to travel to the village and see Kamal at work.

Another friend of mine, an Ex-UNIVARTA correspondent and staffer who has also headed the Varanasi bureau of the news agency in the past, Suphal Kumar, has shifted from Delhi and has been staying in Varanasi to cover the elections. Suphal has a deep and extensive understanding of the ancient spiritual traditions and history of Kashi. When I mentioned Kamal to him, he exclaimed and said that he had heard of such a group having come to Varanasi on the invitation of AAP and it was staying at some guesthouse in Sidhgiri Baug. This was big news to me. I had believed that Kamal was making the documentary for some independent producer. However, this was not a matter of great deal to me.

I was also informed by reliable AAP insider sources that the members of the group are pot smokers. That did not surprise me. I also got to know and confirmed it myself that most of the AAP volunteers are paid an allowance of Rs.1,500 and all those guys who are seen in Kejariwal’s road shows wearing AAP caps are paid Rs.300 per day. These are poor people and they are doing it just for money as daily wage workers.

The village Sarai Mohana was known to Suphal and he had visited one of the ashrams here known as Ma Ji Ashram. It is essentially a village of fishermen. It’s located on the banks of the Ganga. These fishermen are called ‘Mallahs’ and they are quite low in the Hindu caste hierarchy.   

After some searching we located the shooting unit. Kamal was working with a skeletal crew, using Cannon 5D (or 7D), and a recording machine. The interview was happening a little away from the banks of the Ganga amidst a small group of villagers who were sitting on the ground.

The village ‘pradhan’ Shambhu Mallah is part of the group. It’s the activist who is talking passionately. Once in a while, Kamal, in his peculiar nonchalant way, interjects and throws in a question. The activist says he is not actually supporting any of the candidates but it’s the presence of Modi that has vitiated the elections in Kashi. He has made the spiritual city political and that’s a big disservice to the ancient seat of Hindu religion looking at cities like Vatican and Mecca and Medina that are totally apolitical. I patiently listen to this crap and absolute falsehood. The Gram Pradhan intervenes. He also has to say something and whatever he says is at odds with the activist’s view.

The activist proudly mentions to me that he gets funds from some American agency and has been trying to help the villagers. However, he seems to know very little about the actual issues faced by the villagers and that is amply evident from Shambhu Pradhan’s interjection during the interview. The activist has a female associate. I begin to talk to the activist.

He mentions something about Aryan invasion theory. I rebut him and tell him that the long-held theory stands debunked today even by the Marxist historians and then one of the villagers, a better-dressed, obviously well-informed man, supports my view. The activist is now at sea. The interview obviously is an attempt to establish and record the fact that he has actually been working at the ground level running an anti-Modi campaign.

We begin walking back to our vehicles. Suddenly, the female associate of the activist asks me why I cannot  accept Sonia Gandhi as a bahu of this country. I tell her that it’s not an issue. Indians have accepted girls from foreign shores since ages as their bahus and we are actually discussing politics and not personal family matters here.

These activists have got their vehicles and I also see some people with them, who do not look like activists. They are neatly dressed and come across as men from IB or something. I should have explored it further.

The activists had brought with them leaflets that contained a whole lot of unfounded diatribe against the RSS and the usual canards about Modi and Gujarat. They confidently proclaimed that after 5th May, things would  change and something very significant would happen. They are not pitching for AAP and they seem to be working on the brief to promote the Congress cause.

So what is that significant event that will happen on the 5th  of May that will change the course of Varanasi elections?

This is my guess.

Looking at the ground realities here I can confidently assert that Kejariwal is not even in contention in Battleground Varanasi. He is merely an irritant. And with the announcement of the support to Congress by the Quami Ekta Party leader Afzal Ansari, the elder brother of the jailed dreaded mafiaosi Mukhtar Ansari, the game plan of the anti-Modi phalanx is getting increasingly clear. The Kejari card has not worked to their advantage. They are in the process of marginalizing him and he will soon be dumped.

Now, let me tell you what was the original Congi game plan. It was so devious and despicable. Only Congress leaders can think in such wily ways. Here, it’s important to understand the role of the Jindals of Haryana who supported the Anna movement as well as AAP right from the beginning of  both. They were the same Jindals who tried to bribe Yeddurappa in Karnataka but did not succeed, yet he was unfairly implicated by Justice Hegde in the mining scam. He was acquitted  of all the cooked-up charges later by the lower as well as higher courts in Karnataka.

After Kejariwal’s good performance in Delhi elections, the Jindals as well as the Congress party realized his importance as the key tool to thwart Modi. They worked on the grand strategy to divide the Hindu body politic and weaken the traditional support base of the BJP using Kejariwal as their tool. They decided to play the ‘Marwari’ and ‘Agarwaal’ card. The strategy envisaged the creation of a ‘Marwari vs. Gujarati’ divide. This divide always existed as business rivalry yet none had succeeded to milk it politically since the business and trading communities across the national landscape largely supported BJP.

The Jindals and the Bajajs and some other Marwari businessmen who have always been close to the Congi leadership were pressed into service to execute the diabolic plan. They spread the word around through various community channels and presented Kejariwal as one of the emerging heroes of the community. It struck a chord with the intended target audience and a ‘community connect’ was created.

Now, look at it dispassionately. Do you really think an average Marwari businessman, known for his smart wheeling-dealing, really cares for a ‘corruption crusader’? I don’t think so. Do you think that those who cornered all kinds of licenses during the ‘permit-quota’ regime of various Congress governments since the nation’s Independence, really care for corruption? The answer is they don’t. Most of the business houses live off corruption and have been the main beneficiaries of government policies that encouraged ‘cronyism’ and ‘corruption’ and created monopolies and oligopolies.

You will be surprised to learn that a whole lot of generally apolitical Marwari businessmen and traders were made members of AAP in the initial phases. It was a covert community activity. And the hard-core Hindutva vote bank developed serious fissures. Kejariwal is a Marwari hero coming straight from the land of Raja Agrsen and he might become the PM too, upsetting a Gujarati’s apple cart. This was the message sent to the Marwaris.

The electoral equation to damage BJP was well in place and it nearly worked but for the fact that a lower or middle-class Marwari could also see the futility of supporting Kejariwal. He may even have got put off by the way AAP leaders tried to woo Muslims. Moreover, he was not prepared to buy lame arguments about the goodness of an ‘unstable government’. The vitriolic attack of Muslim leaders on Modi may have put them off as well. 

It’s not that Marwaris have totally dumped Kejariwal. If they see the probability of an AAP win, they may back him. For instance, if they feel Kumar Vishwas has a better chance of winning against Rahul Gandhi, they may support him instead of Smriti Iraani.

In Battleground Varanasi, they don’t see Kejariwal in a winning position and thus he won’t get their votes. This does not help Congress in anyway as its grand strategy has turned counter-productive. Kejari may divide the captive Muslim and Christian vote bank of Congress.

So, he will have to be dumped. He is useless from the perspective of the strategic game plan of the Congress. He is simply weakening the anti-Modi phalanx.

So, on 5th May, the only big surprise can be the ‘covert’ withdrawal of Kejariwal from Battlefield Varanasi. The Vaticanists and the Islamists have already issued the required edicts to the faithful to go for tactical voting. In Varanasi it means a vote for Congress. This was done in Mumbai as well.

I hope and pray that the nationalists are ready to deal with this development and have their strategies in place to bridge caste and community divides and to ensure the defeat of the devious and wily anti-Modi phalanx. 

Rajesh Kumar Singh